R.I.P Apple's Larry Tesler (video)

From William Gallagher's "Larry Tesler, who showed Steve Jobs around Xerox PARC, dies aged 74," posted Wednesday on AppleInsider:

Tesler was the person Xerox assigned to show Steve Jobs around its Palo Alto Research Center in late 1979. The two visits Jobs made to PARC then, and what he saw Tesler and colleagues developing, are the reason Apple produced the Lisa and the Mac.

It was computing legend Alan Kay who had hired Tesler for Xerox, and then it was Steve Jobs who hired him away to work at Apple...

In his 17 years at Apple, he began on the Apple Lisa, ran the development of the Newton, and invented Copy and Paste...

After Jobs left the company, Tesler continued, and was at least an advisor when Apple was considering buying NeXT. At the time, Gil Amelio was Apple's CEO, and in 1996 he was deciding between two companies, either of which were believed capable of reviving Apple's fortunes. Jobs had NeXT, and ex-Apple head Jean-Louis Gassee had Be OS.

Tesler advised Amelio to buy NeXT, but also warned him.

"Whatever company you choose," he is reported to have said, "you'll get someone who will take your job away, Steve or Jean-Louis."

My take: A lot of computer legend packed into that obit.

Below: Tesler in 2017 demonstrating an early implementation of "copy and paste," on a vintage Xerox Alto:

See also: Machine That Changed The World, The; Interview with Larry Tesler, 1992


  1. Jerry Doyle said:
    Copy (cut) & Paste! Wow!

    Early in my career I became a federal auditor, Team Leader, responsible for conducting audits and writing reports of findings. Most reports ran between 60 to 120 type-written pages (depending on the size of the grantee, State agency or other entity audited). There could be as many as 1-2 dozen drafts, each edited separately by “higher-ups” as the drafts moved up the chain-of-command, including lastly, to the “Politicos” running the federal agency or department.

    Findings from audits are used for provision of subsequent consultation, technical assistance along with ferreting potential fraud, waste and abuse of federal monies spent in noncompliance with law and regulations, under the auspices for which federal funds were awarded.

    I remember before computers writing in “long-hand” these reports-of-findings. When the edits came back to me I also remember taking a pair of scissors and cutting the edits and then “pasting” them onto the initial draft report. In retrospect, what a laborious and time consuming process.

    Along came computers with “cut & paste” and voila! Oh how that made the editing job easier. Then later came the ability of sharing the reports across geographic regions and even across the Potomac with HQ where folk could work on the document together. How many of you remember those days of scissors cutting and using real paste (or Scotch’s tape)? I just revealed my age! -:)

    February 20, 2020
    • When I started at TIME in 1979 they were still ripping stories off the wire and laying out the magazine with paper and hot wax.

      February 20, 2020
    • Aaron Belich said:
      Wow, that is mind blowing!

      February 20, 2020
  2. Jerry Doyle said:
    Thanks PED for the YouTube video clip of Larry Tesler explaining the period when Steve Jobs and his engineers visited Xerox PARC. I went back to research what I remembered about that period from all my readings. That visit was a historical, technological world game-changer in computing.

    Larry mentioned that Xerox agreed to show Apple its new technology at PARC. In return, Steve allowed Xerox to buy 100,000 shares at $10 each, or $1,000,000 as Larry denoted in the video clip.

    Jobs and his crew arrived at PARC to see XEROX’s crown jewels. Apparently, Steve was not satisfied during the initial visit with what he saw and he called Xerox HQs demanding more access. So, he was invited back a few days later.

    Tesler did the demo of the graphical user interface. The demo blew Steve away. He was startled and exclaimed “You’re sitting on a gold mine….I can’t believe Xerox is not taking advantage of this.” Steve saw the future of computing and he knew how to commercialize what he saw.

    Was it an Apple raid on Xerox PARC, one of the biggest heists in the chronicles of the computing industry? Steve Jobs later agreed with that assessment and endorsed the view with pride. This fits with his famous quote that, “Picasso had a saying — ‘good artists copy, great artists steal’ — and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”

    It was the unique, experimental and innovative graphical user interface technology that wowed Steve. Steve’s assessment was no heist took place, but that Xerox fumbled because, “… They were copier-heads who had no clue about what a computer could do.”

    Xerox could have owned the entire computer industry because of their conception and creation of that technology; but, as Steve later was to denote accurately, in the annuals of innovation, new ideas are only “part-of-the-equation.” Execution is just as important.

    Xerox had this technology but did not know what they had or what they could do with it. Steve and his engineers significantly improved the graphical interface ideas and were able to implement the technology and commercialize it in ways that Xerox never envision, or would accomplish.

    February 20, 2020
  3. Jerry Doyle said:
    In summary, as my last post on Larry Tesler, he truly is a contributor to modern computing as we know it today. I denoted earlier just how the “copy & paste” changed the way we did our job tasks, making us more productive in the world of work.

    Larry was a visionary scientist who knew, I believe, what Xerox had but was not doing anything with that technology. I feel that this is the reason Larry was so willing to divulge more information to Steve & team then what his section leaders desired to exhibit.

    Not mentioned in the video clip is the fact that Steve Jobs knew they were hiding information and that Steve made not one, not two, but multiple calls to Xerox HQs on the East coast complaining vociferously. Finally, XEROX HQs called the Section Leader demanding that she show all the Crown Jewels to Jobs. The call from Xerox HQ caused the head of the section to storm out of the room in a “rage-of-anger.”

    Larry will be the thrust behind all in modern technology who today execute the concept of cut, copy and paste that first was introduced on the 1984 Macintosh.

    RIP Larry Tesler.

    February 20, 2020

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