Larry Tesler was also Apple’s chief scientist
The computer scientist Larry Tesler, who is famous for inventing the computer concepts cut, copy and paste, has passed away at age 74.
Tesler was born in New York in 1945 and he studied computer science at Stanford. After graduation, he worked in the university’s genetics and computer science departments before becoming a research assistant at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
In 1973, Tesler joined Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and this is where he developed cut, copy and paste. These concepts were instrumental in the development of text editors and early computer operating systems.
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While cut, copy and paste were developed at PARC, the research center is more well known for its early work on graphical user interfaces and using a mouse to navigate them because Apple co-founder Steve Jobs used many of its ideas as inspiration for Apple’s products. In fact, Tesler was even part of some of Jobs’ visits to Xerox.
In addition to creating cut, copy and paste, Tesler was also a big proponent of a concept called “modeless” computing. Basically modeless computing revolves around the idea that a program should not have different “modes” where a user’s input works differently depending on which mode they’re in.
According to Tesler’s personal website, he and a colleague named Tim Mott developed the idea while working on the Gypsy text editor back at PARC. He was such a big believer in modeless computing that the URL of his site is actually nomodes.com.
Tesler joined Apple in 1980 and he worked at the company until 1997 where he eventually rose to the role of Chief Scientist. During that time, he worked on a number of products including the Macintosh, QuickTime, Lisa and even the Newton tablet. The Macintosh and Lisa were the first personal computers ever to include cut, copy and paste functionality as a result of Tesler’s involvement in their development.
After leaving Apple in 1997, Tesler had several short stints at a number of other big companies including Amazon, Yahoo!, 23andMe and others.
Tesler’s contribution to computing won’t be forgotten any time soon as the concepts of cut, copy and paste have become fundamental to how we use computers and even smartphones today.