There's some history involved, and since I was alive when it happened it's not too ancient. Old style racing pedals have a curvy piece of metal or plastic at the front to hold your feet in place. These are toe clips. In the past, racers used cleated shoes with toe clips and straps to keep their feet in place on the pedal. These pedals with clips are not clipless pedals.
In 1984, LOOK -- a company known for its ski bindings -- introduced its new binding system for bicycle shoes. Because no clips are involved, it's a "clipless" pedal. Although several people and companies developed their own clipless pedals before LOOK did, Bernard Hinault rode to a Tour de France victory in 1985 using LOOK's new binding system and thousands of OCPs (including myself) followed suit by buying his pedals over the next couple of years, making LOOK's clipless pedals the first commercially successful clipless pedals. I have a box somewhere with my old Nike cycling shoes with LOOK cleats on them. I always used the red cleats.
That's the reason that although we "clip" in and out of these bindings, the pedals are clipless.
Fonk the Cyclist, by the way, rides around Colorado Springs, Colorado. Drop by his blog and say hello.
IMPORTANT: Please post comments for this article at the new CYCLELICIOUS 2.0 version of this page.
Ha. I'm always fielding this question from my readers due to the name of my blog. Now I'll just send them a link to this article when they ask...haha.