Larry Tesler, a pioneer computer scientist who worked at Apple from 1980 to 1997 and created the cut, copy, and paste feature on computers, died at the age of 74 on Monday.
Tesler has served as AppleNet Vice President and Advanced Technology Group of Apple. During his time at the company, he played a key role in developing products from the Lisa computer to the Newton MessagePad tablet.
And that is only the tip of the iceberg when recalling his dedication to the computing industry as a whole.
Larry Tesler’s path to computing
Tesler is a prominent and interesting figure in personal computing history. He is the perfect combination of hippie culture and high-tech culture – the things that helped create the Apple company we know today.
Born in New York in 1945, Tesler studied computer science at Stanford University. At one time, he worked at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. In the 1960s, Tesler participated in anti-war protests and taught at the Free University in San Francisco. One of the classes he teaches, in the fall of 1968, is “How to End the IBM Monopoly” (How to End the IBM Monopoly). Most of the participants in this class are IBM employees.
In 1970, Tesler helped found a hippie group in Oregon, before being offered a job at the legendary R&D facility Xerox PARC. The person who invited him to work, Alan Kay, later joined Apple.
Tesler is passionate about something called “modeless computing,” which means a kind of computing in which users don’t have to constantly switch between input states. His Dodge Valiant vehicle has a custom license plate with the words “NO MODES” on it. He often wears a T-shirt with the words “Don’t Mode Me In”. And his Twitter account is “@nomodes”.
He was also the inventor of the cut, copy, and paste feature – a standard in today’s computer interface.
Meet Steve Jobs
Tesler is part of a PARC team of three, who met Steve Jobs when Apple visited the facility in late 1979. This visit was the first time Jobs was exposed to the graphical user interface, the latter. introduced by Apple to mass users with Lisa, and Macintosh computers.
“You can see ideas running through Steve’s brain incredibly fast. He can form connections at unbelievably high speeds “- Tesler once said that in an interview in 2011.
Jobs impressed Tesler. He was particularly fascinated by the Apple co-founder’s extensive knowledge in all aspects of the computer industry. “We are technology enthusiasts with very logical minds. But Steve also knows about marketing, distribution, finance – every aspect of the business you can think of “- Tesler said.
Shortly after that visit, Tesler quit his job at Xerox. He enthusiastically joined Apple, though the company was a relatively new startup at the time.
How Tesler joined Apple
“It was fun because Apple was really the reason I wanted to leave Xerox, but I never seriously considered it as a career option. Although I am quite impressed by the people attending the PARX demo, I still think of them primarily as a hobby company. Not that I’m not interested in working for them, but I don’t think ‘I have to come and work for Apple’.“.
Even so, Tesler also started work at Apple on July 15, 1980. “Apple has only a few buildings [ở thời điểm đó]”- he said. “At Xerox, I will have to make an appointment with the Vice President, and the appointment will take place in 3 to 6 months from the time of booking … Nothing is decided. At Apple, I just need to walk through several doors from my office and talk to Steve Jobs. If Steve isn’t there, I’ll talk to his secretary and get an appointment with him about 4 hours later, or I’ll find him down the hall. It is simply a completely different situation in terms of the ability to meet people and make decisions. “
Tesler first worked on Apple’s Lisa project. The ill-fated computer was the first Apple machine equipped with a mouse and graphical interface. Because Tesler previously worked with similar technology at PARC, he was the obvious choice for this group.
Larry Tesler and Steve Jobs
Although many engineers Lisa remembers Jobs as a troublemaker, Tesler is fascinated by Jobs’ enthusiasm. Mostly so. One day, Jobs woke up Tesler at 2am with a call about some small details of the project.
“I can’t remember if he apologized for late calling. I felt proud to be called by him at that hour. But I thought it was a bit weird, and mentioned it in a way that messed with my boss the next day. It turns out that what Steve did was not right. Many people had similar experiences, and they are recording to sue him “- Tesler said.
Jobs was eventually kicked out of Lisa’s group. He later joined a group of frustrated employees with the company to develop a small computer called a Mac.
After Lisa, Tesler works on many Apple projects. Perhaps the most notable of these is Newton MessagePad. Like Lisa, Newton was a memorable failure, though looking back on it was a very interesting computer.
After Tesler left Apple
Tesler left Apple in 1997. At one point he was working for Amazon as Vice President of Shopping Experience. Later, he joined Yahoo !, as Vice President of user experience and design. For the past decade, he has been freelancing as a technology consultant.
Larry Tesler died on February 17, 2020. He is a passionate enthusiast with the desire to bring better interoperability between people with computers. He was always very generous in time, and was a very kind person.
If you’re interested in exploring the life of Larry Tesler, you can read John Markoff’s book, “What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Conterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry.” This book details the early development of personal computers. And Tesler plays a big part in that evolution.