Silicon Valley pioneer Larry Tesler of Portola Valley dies at 74 | News | Almanac Online |


Silicon Valley pioneer Larry Tesler of Portola Valley dies at 74

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Portola Valley resident Larry Tesler, who created computer concepts such as "cut," "copy," and "paste," died on Feb. 17 at the age of 74, according to reports from CNN, Associated Press and the Washington Post.

Born in New York, Tesler came to the West Coast to attend Stanford University, where he received a degree in mathematics in 1965, according to the news reports.

He joined Xerox Corp.'s Palo Alto Research Center in 1973, where he pioneered concepts that helped make computers more user-friendly, specifically moving text using cut-and-paste functions and inserting text by clicking on a screen and typing, according to the obituary published by the AP.

Before Tesler's work, computer users had to work with computer programs in different "modes," where the same commands meant different things depending on how they were used, the AP obituary noted.

For instance, text could be entered in one mode, but to change the text, the user would have to switch the computer to a different mode.

Tesler reportedly helped refine the concept of “modeless” computing, in which a user could perform a variety of functions without changing how the computer would operate.

Tesler joined Steve Jobs at Apple in 1980, where he worked on a variety of personal computer products, including the Lisa computer, the Newton personal digital assistant and the Macintosh, CNN reported.

The cut-copy-paste command was incorporated into the Lisa computer in 1983, then became a standard function on the Macintosh operating system, which was introduced a year later, the AP obituary said.

Computer objects like external keyboards, the mouse, icons and windows were refined into finished products while Tesler was at Apple, where in 1993 he became chief scientist, a role that had previously been held by Steve Wozniak, according to the Washington Post.

Tesler spent 17 years at Apple before co-founding an educational software company and, later, holding executive positions at Amazon, Yahoo and the genetics-testing service 23andMe, CNN reported.

He worked as an independent consultant in his final years, helping Silicon Valley companies make their products more accessible to users, the Washington Post said.

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6 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Leblang
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 24, 2020 at 12:44 pm

I had the honor and pleasure of working with Larry for several years while he was at Amazon. While the Post, AP, and NY Times do a great job of capturing what Larry did, the really missed out on who he was. He was one of the kindest, gentlest, and most pleasant people I've ever known and worked with. As a vice president, he had enormous demands on his time. But if you were talking with him, you would never know it. His attention was on you, the problem you were trying to solve, and how he could help you achieve your goal.
I have read a number of messages about Larry privately exchanged by my Amazon colleagues over the past few days, and they are all universal in echoing those thoughts and feeling. Many executives think they need to be bombastic and crude to be effective. In contrast, Larry showed that by talking softly, but with authority granted by great knowledge, he could make great things happen.

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