- Often hailed as a computing genius Larry Tesler has died at the age of 74.
- When he was Xerox PARC in 1070s, Tesler created cut-copy-paste feature which is nowadays used in almost all computers and smartphones.
- Tesler was also involved in creating interface for early computers at Xerox, which later paved the way for Apple Mac.
Do you use cut-copy-paste? Of course, you do. Everyone does, whether you are copying something from a website on to a Word doc file, or copying a WhatsApp message and then pasting it into an email, you are using cut-copy-paste mechanism all the time. For the feature you can thank Larry Tesler, who developed it in 1970s. Tesler died at the age of 74 on Tuesday.
Tesler was born in 1945 in New York and studied computer science at Stanford. He then worked in Artificial Intelligence (AI) research for some time. Tesler was then hired by computing legend Alan Kay in 1973 for Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC).
It was at PARC where Tesler developed cut-copy-paste mechanism to move and share information. Soon, the mechanism became a key part of the computer interface and nowadays it is used in all computers as well as smartphones. PARC was famous for its early work on graphical user interfaces and how to navigate them on a computer with a mouse, and several of key ideas for this interface came from Tesler.
In 1979, when Tesler was still working for Xerox, he was assigned to show Apple co-founder Steve Jobs around. After seeing what Tesler and company were developing at Xerox, Jobs decided to produce Lisa and Mac. The story of Jobs -- as well as Bill Gates -- decided to get inspired by everything that Xerox was working on is fairly well-known. In a way, the interface that Xerox -- and Tesler was part of the team that were working on this interface -- developed and showed to public led to the creation of new Mac computers and a few years later the PC.
Macintosh and Lisa were the first computing systems to popularise the cut-copy-paste mechanisms and you can say that this feature in these computers took "inspiration" from the work Tesler was doing at Xerox Parc.
In 1980, Steve Jobs hired Tesler for Apple. According to Apple Insider, Tesler was a major contributor to Macintosh's software which included QuickTime, AppleScript and Bill Atkinson's HyperCard.
Tesler was also known as an expert in "modeless computing". The idea behind this is that a program should not have different modes where a user's input does different things based on whichever mode you are in. On Tesler's personal website, it is mentioned that Tesler and a colleague Tim Mott developed the idea of modeless computing while they were working at PARC on Gypsy modeless computing.
After leaving Apple in 1997, Tesler for some time worked at Stagecast -- a start-up spun out of Apple. He cofounded Stagecraft Software in Palo Alto in 1997. Stagecast Creator was released in 1999. One of the last projects that Tesler was involved in was a programming language called Cocoa that was supposed to be used by school children.
Tesler joined Amazon in 2001 where he was hired as the vice president of engineering. He helped Amazon improve its website interface. In 2005 he quit Amazon and joined Yahoo following which he worked in 23andME till 2009.