Saltar al contenido

RIP: Larry Tesler, the inventor of copying and pasting

RIP: Larry Tesler, the inventor of copying and pasting

Tesler, 74, invented a user interface while at Xerox PARC, which most of us rely on every day.

«You can’t reduce the complexity of a given task beyond a certain point. Once you have reached this point, you can only change the task. «~ Larry Tesler

One of the people who helped create today’s personal computing era passed away this week: Larry Tesler, 74, the computer scientist who invented copying and pasting while at Xerox PARC.

Intertwined with the history of Apple

Long ago, when Xerox wanted to invest in Apple before the IPO, Apple applied for and obtained the right to visit the legendary Palo Alto Research Center. The first such visit took place in 1980 (although some claim that it took place in 1979).

Larry Tesler, then director of PARC, acted as Apple’s tour guide.

Born in the Bronx in 1945, Tesler studied at Stanford University in California and was the man who led Steve Jobs at Apple and his delegation on the historically important tour from which Apple took over the user interface and design concepts. of computers that have become the pillars of computers. we use today. .

Things like external keyboards, mice, icons, windows – all of these items had been in development at Xerox PARC, although it took Jobs and Apple to figure it out, some say.

Jobs was so impressed with the rally that he shouted, «Stay on a gold mine.»

Teslar was also taken over by its Apple visitors:

«What impressed me was that their questions were better than the ones I’d heard in the seven years I’ve been at Xerox … the questions have shown that they understand the implications and subtleties.»

The complicated history of the Mac

What is less known is that Jef Raskin (who was not there) and some members of the Apple delegation had worked on similar technologies without Jobs’ approval.

So when Jobs came back to ask legendary Apple engineer Bill Atkinson, «How long will it take to double that?» Atkinson was able to answer, «About six months.»

Michael Malone’s seminal story, Infinite Loop (recommended), claims that Atkinson secretly worked with Raskin on similar concepts for months. No wonder the delegation knew so much.

Regardless, Tesler left Xerox and joined Apple’s Lisa team, where he came to manage the application software. (An interesting perspective on his patience when working with younger developers is revealed in this Tweet from engineer Tom Conrad.)

Tesler also realized the need to make the software compatible with both Lisa and the new Macintosh, but that didn’t happen, and this created major problems for the company later.

Years later, under the unfortunate leadership of John Sculley, Tesler became vice president of advanced technology, contributing to Apple’s user interface design, including in Newtown.

Steve Jobs’ return

He also made a vital contribution to Apple’s history. Apple, in the late 1990s, was looking for a replacement operating system and was looking at both BeOS and NeXT.

Walter Jobsson’s Steve Jobs tells us that Tesler was one of those who recommended Apple choose NeXT, warning then-CEO Gil Amelio: «No matter which company you choose, you’ll get someone who will take your job, Steve or Jean Louis Gassee ”.

Of course, that’s what happened.

We should also have no doubt that the Unix bases of NeXT, which became OS X, have also empowered and continue to empower Apple’s current platforms.

It was a pretty good decision, although Tesler left Apple shortly after Jobs returned. He later became vice president of shopping experience at Amazon before joining Yahoo as director of research and user experience for that company.

He was also a member of the ARM board of directors from 1990-2004. «On behalf of Apple, he negotiated the separation of the ARM microprocessor development team from Acorn Computers into a joint venture that became a public company,» says his LinkedIn profile.

Copy and paste

Despite Tesler’s deep and sustained contribution to the industry (including contributions to the code inspection tools that most developers use on most platforms on a daily basis), this is what Tesler called «text editing.» No way ”(cutting, copying and pasting) for what is most remembered.

He brought together the digital expression of traditional print-based workflows while at Xerox PARC; This was one of the innovations that Jobs (and others) were most excited about.

It was in a mouse-based graphical interface called Gypsy, a click-and-write interface where the user could, at any time, enter text at the current insertion point or click where the insertion point should be. repositioned.

Here he demonstrates how the gypsy worked.

Xerox wrote on Twitter: “Your work day is made easier by your game-changing ideas. Larry passed away on Monday, so join us in celebrating. «

The Computer History Museum said Tesler: «He combined computer science training with a countercultural view that computers should be for everyone.»

And there is no doubt that the work you have done in terms of user-centric user interfaces, including copying and pasting, has become a part of everyday life for almost every person on the planet. It seems that some contributions are quite difficult to copy.