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 1870-71 and referred to as board clips. Related to the clipboard is the Shannon Arch File, which was developed around 1877.
Another use that was typical before the era of personal computers (which brought about word processing and computer graphics) was to hold pieces of text and art that had been clipped with scissors from one sheet of paper to be pasted with paste onto another sheet. This use provided the analogy and terminology for computer clipboards.
Clipboards can be constructed from a variety of material, including but not limited to, aluminum, PVC, polypropylene, High Impact Polystyrene, Foamex and even wood. 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. 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.
Many police officers carry clipboards. Police clipboards are designed for constant use, and have one or two compartments designed for filing documents and reports while in transit.
In some cases police have been issued with armoured clipboards.
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.
Most 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. Such information is a critical factor in companies maintaining competitiveness or governments delivering services that people need.