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    Bill Moggridge, 69; created computer with flip-open design

    The Grid Compass designed by Mr. Moggridge sold for $8,150 upon its release in 1982.
    Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
    The Grid Compass designed by Mr. Moggridge sold for $8,150 upon its release in 1982.

    NEW YORK — Bill Moggridge, a British industrial designer who created an early portable computer with the flip-open shape that is common today, has died. He was 69.

    The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum said Mr. Moggridge, its director since 2010, died on Saturday after a battle with cancer.

    Mr. Moggridge is credited with the design of the Grid Compass, a computer that had a keyboard and yellow-on-black display that sold for $8,150 when it was released in 1982. It was encased in magnesium and seen as rugged, and was used by the US military. The computer made its way into outer space aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1985.

    Mr. Moggridge became director of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in 2010.


    Although there were many portable computers being developed around that time, Grid Systems Corp. won the patent for the clamshell design with the foldable screen hinged toward the back of the machine, said Alex Bochannek, a curator at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

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    Mr. Moggridge pushed for this foldable design when it was realized the flat-panel screen, keyboard, and circuitry could all fit snugly together.

    ‘‘In terms of the industrial design of the enclosure, Moggridge was instrumental in proposing that,’’ Bochannek said. ‘‘He came up with that particular form factor.’’

    Until that point, portable computers resembled portable sewing machines that weighed more than 20 pounds and had a big handle, he said.

    It was after using the machine that Mr. Moggridge’s ideas about design began to change, Bochannek said. His work began to focus more on how people interacted with devices, rather than just making sure they were enclosed well.


    A cofounder of design consultancy firm IDEO, Mr. Moggridge authored the books ‘‘Designing Interactions,’’ which was published in 2006, and ‘‘Designing Media,’’ published in 2010.

    ‘‘Beloved by the museum staff and the design community at large, Bill touched the lives of so many through his wise counsel, boundary-pushing ideas, and cheerful camaraderie,’’ said Caroline Baumann, associate director of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, in a statement.

    He leaves his wife of 47 years, Karin, and two sons, Alex and Erik.