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A wooden clipboard

A clipboard is a thin, rigid board with a clip at the top for holding paper in place. A clipboard is typically used to support paper with one hand while writing on it with the other, especially when other writing surfaces are not available. The earliest forms were patented in 1870–1871 and referred to as board clips.[1] Related to the clipboard is the Shannon Arch File, which was developed around 1877.[1]


Clipboards can be constructed from a variety of material, including but not limited to, hardboard, aluminum, PVC, polypropylene, High Impact Polystyrene, and Foamex. Clipboards generally come in two different designs—single or folding. Single clipboards are the more traditional type and consist of a single piece of rigid material and some sort of fixing mechanism along the top. Folding clipboards are usually constructed from a single piece of flexible PVC with two rigid materials enclosed within. A folding hinge connects the two sections to allow the front to be folded over the content to provide protection and often to allow some sort of promotional print or instructions. Folding clipboards also provide additional benefits because of the extra space available, allowing the incorporation of pen holders and pockets for storage.[2] The arrival of the microprocessor and Internet age gave rise to high-tech variants of the traditional clipboard, the first being the Ferranti Market Research Terminal that retained a clip, to hold A4 paper sheets (looking like a large clipboard) but recording answers to questions in its electronic memory.[3][4]

Storage clipboards[edit]

A storage clipboard

Storage clipboards have one or more compartments designed for paperwork, both to allow for easy transport of needed papers, and to protect those papers. They may also feature one or several compartments for writing implements. Some versions feature a hinged panel to slide between portions of a two-sided multi-part form.

Armored clipboards[edit]

In some cases, police have been issued with armoured clipboards.[5]


In the National Football League backup players, particularly the quarterback, are seen on the sidelines carrying a clipboard. Football analysts often use the notion of "carrying a clipboard" as an object of derision indicating that said football player is not good enough to play on the field.[further explanation needed]

Market Research[edit]

Some people will have encountered someone in a shopping mall, using a clipboard to record their opinions on aspects of life ranging from products through to politics. This is called market research, which includes opinion polls and social research and provides a formal mechanism for gathering information about people or organizations to support decision or policy making.[6] Such information is a critical factor in companies maintaining competitiveness or governments delivering services that people need.


  1. ^ a b "Early Filing Devices: Small Files & Filing Devices". Early Office Museum.
  2. ^ "Clipboards".
  3. ^ G. Rowley, K. Barker, V. Callaghan (1986) “The Market Research Terminal & Developments in Survey Research”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 20 Issue: 2, pp.35 - 39.
  4. ^ Deborah A Martell, “Marketing Information and New Technology“, Chapter 8 in the book, Management Information Systems: The Technology Challenge, edited by Nigel Piercy, published by Nichols Publishing Company, New York, ISBN 0-89397-260-6, p163, 1987.
  5. ^ Armour plated clipboards for West Midlands police (Television production). ATV Today. 1 February 1979. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  6. ^ A. Holohan, J. Chin, V. Callaghan, P. Muhlau, "The Digital Home: a New Locus of Social Science Research". In The Handbook of Emergent Technologies in Social Research, Oxford University Press, 2010

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Clipboards at Wikimedia Commons
  • The dictionary definition of clipboard at Wiktionary