Larry Tesler who was one of the icons of early computing has died at the age of 74.
He started working in Silicon Valley at the time when the computers were inaccessible to a vast majority of people and computing was still in the nascent stage in the early 1960s. Thanks to his contributions and innovations which includes the “cut”, “copy” and “paste” shortcut commands which made the personal computing simple to learn and use. His pioneering effort in what he called “modeless editing” meant the user would no longer have to a mouse to switch between modes to write and edit.
Xerox, the place where he spent most part of his career, paid a tribute to him in the following way.
“The inventor of cut/copy & paste, find & replace, and more, was former Xerox researcher Larry Tesler. Your workday is easier thanks to his revolutionary ideas.”
He was born in New York in 1945 and studied at Stanford University in California. After graduating in computer science, he specialized in user interface design – in other words making computer systems user-friendly. During his long and illustrious career, he worked for several major technology firms. He also worked with Steve Jobs at Apple for about seventeen years and rose to the position of chief scientist. After leaving Apple, he founded an education start-up and worked short periods at Amazon and Yahoo.
In 2012, during one of the interviews with the BBC of Silicon Valley, he said, “There’s almost a rite of passage – after you’ve made some money, you don’t just retire, you spend your time funding other companies. There’s a very strong element of excitement, of being able to share what you’ve learned with the next generation.”
‘A counterculture vision’
Possibly his most famous contribution, the cut and paste command was reportedly based on the old method of editing where people would physically cut portions of the printed text and glue them elsewhere. The command was first incorporated in Apple’s software on the Lisa computer in 1983 and the original Macintosh in 1984. He was a strong believer in the notion that computing systems should be free of “modes”. These modes allow the users to switch between functions on software and apps while making the processing time-consuming. His belief was so firm that his website was called “nomodes.com”, his Twitter handle was “@nomodes”, and even his car’s registration plate was “No Modes”.