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Larry Tesla: The Computer Scientist behind ‘cut-copy-paste’

The UI Pioneer and Icon of Early Computing dies at age 74

Xerox, an American Global Corporation that sells print and digital document products and services on Wednesday, 19th February announce the passing of one of their researchers Larry Tesla two days prior (Monday, 17th).

Larry Tesla is credited with the invention of cut/copy and paste, in an era where computers were inaccessible to the vast majority of people, It was thanks to his innovation which included find and replace and many more commands that the personal computer became simple to learn and use. Just these two have made workday super easier if we take a minute to ponder.

How would we have reviewed a previous document and summarise it to reference in our current works? How would we easily find a sentence or word in a 1000 words document?

Tesla was born in New York in 1945 and had his higher education at Standford University where he studied Computer Science after which he worked in AI research for a while and later joined Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in 1973 to 1980. Xerox PARC is famously known for developing the mouse-driven graphical user interface as we have it now.

During this period of working, Tesla worked with Tim Mott to create a word processor called Gypsy, that is best known for the terms “cut”, “copy” and “paste” when it comes to commands for deleting, duplicating and reposting aspects of texts.

Below is a video of Tesla demonstrating Gypsy

After leaving Xerox in 1980, he joined Apple Computer where he worked until 1997, where he held numerous positions and once even served as Apple’s Chief Scientist a position which was once held by Steve Wozniak, Apple’s co-founder.

During his stay at Apple, he worked on a number of products including the Macintosh, QuickTime, Lisa, and the Newton Tablet. Macintosh and Lisa were the first personal computers to popularize cut-copy-and-paste operations.

In addition to his contributions to some of Apple’s most famous hardware, Tesler was also known for his efforts to make software and user interfaces more accessible. Tesler was also an advocate for an approach to UI design known as modeless computing. In essence, it ensures that user actions remain consistent throughout an operating system’s various functions and apps.

After leaving Apple in 1997, Tesler co-founded a company called Stagecast Software which developed applications that made it easier and more accessible for children to learn programming concepts. In 2001 he joined Amazon and eventually became the VP of Shopping Experience there, in 2005 he switched to Yahoo where he headed up that company’s user experience and design group, and then in 2008, he became a product fellow at 23andMe. According to his CV, Tesler left 23andMe in 2009 and from then on mostly focused on consulting work.

The contributions of Tesla to modern computing and it’s advancement can never be denied after all his works at Xerox PARC as well as Apple and the many other tech firms he impacted.

Silicon Valley’s Computer History Museum said Mr. Tesler “combined computer science training with counterculture vision that computers should be for everyone”.

Source/Read More

  1. The Verge Post on Larry
  2. Gizmodo Post on Larry

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Mohammed Sylla

Mohammed Sylla is a TechPreneur into providing IT services ranging from graphic design, web development, IT support and more. He is a a believer in self development and now venturing into Blogging and Podcast Hosting.

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