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Copy-and-paste creator Larry Tesler

Larry Tesler (1945–2020), computer scientist who created copy-and-paste

by Linnea Crowther

Larry Tesler was a computer scientist whose achievements included developing the cut, copy, and paste technology that’s now an integral part of using our devices. In the 1970s, Tesler worked at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), then a hotspot for innovations in computing. It was there that he worked on the Gypsy word processor, which introduced the concept of cut, copy, and paste, as well as the terms we now use for those actions. Tesler also introduced the concept of find and replace.

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Died: February 17, 2020 (Who else died on February 17?)

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Details of death: Died at the age of 74.


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Other work: Tesler moved from Xerox PARC to Apple in 1980, where he continued to develop key concepts for home computing. One of these was modeless computing. Early programs — such as word processors — allowed the user to switch between modes, so that sometimes keyboard strokes would result in characters on the screen, but other modes would use the keyboard for different input, such as functional commands. Tesler streamlined this clunky system to make all keyboard input possible through a single mode. In later years, Tesler worked for Amazon, Yahoo, and 23andMe, as well as founding Stagecast Software.

Tesler’s Law: A law of computing is named for Tesler. Tesler’s Law states that for any system, there is a certain amount of complexity that simply can’t be reduced.

What people said about him: “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. Larry passed away on Monday, so please join us in celebrating him.” —Xerox

“Sad to hear of the death of Larry Tesler, one of the great pioneering heroes of modern day computing. He should be celebrated not just for his work on interfaces but for his wider & deeper thinking too, as instance ‘Tesler’s Law,’ the truth of which we all daily encounter I think.” —comedian Stephen Fry

Full obituary: Gizmodo

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