It's the 8th installment of our Famous Graves series! Today we're taking a look at the life and legacy of Larry Tesler, a pioneering computer scientist best known for his contributions to the world of HCI (human-computer interaction). While there is actually little known about his final resting place, he is nonetheless an interesting figure who's owed much respect for his work; as Xerox put it, "Your workday is easier thanks to his revolutionary ideas."
Larry Tesler, 2007
Born in 1945 and raised in the Bronx, New York, Lawrence Gordon Tesler felt his calling in the yet budding field of computer science while still a student in high school. After impressing a teacher with a complicated prime number algorithm, he enrolled in a computer class at Columbia University, where he essentially taught himself computer programming. Upon graduation from Stanford University in 1965, he worked various programming jobs before landing a spot with the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. It was there at PARC that he was first began work on the Gypsy Word Processor, and also first began contemplating ideas on what the future of human-computer interaction would look like.
COPY & PASTE REVOLUTION
While at PARC- the same place that introduced the world to the computer mouse- Larry Tesler came up with an idea that would revolutionize computer programming (and everyday work and play for the layperson). That idea was Cut, Copy & Paste. Such a simple notion, but one of the many "little" things he developed to ensure easy user interface for all...and not just those who were formally educated in computer science. This "counterculture" idea was unheard of back in the '60s, but it was something that he would advocate for for the rest of his life.
To further develop a seamless user experience, Tesler also promoted and actively worked on the idea of a "modeless" computer system. Basically, he felt that the everyday user shouldn't have to switch in between modes or functions depending on what they were doing while computing. He was so passionate about modeless computing, in fact, that his official website is nomodes.com, as is his Twitter handle and even a license plate on his car at one point.
After PARC, Tesler went on to work with Apple at the request of Steve Jobs. There he helped to develop many pioneering software programs, including Macintosh and QuickTime. Following his 17-year tenure there, he moved on to several other high-profile companies- Yahoo, Amazon and Stagecast.
On February 16th, 2020, at the age of 74, Larry Tesler passed away at his home in San Fransisco. There is not very much information available surrounding his cause of death, nor whether he was buried or cremated. But his legacy lives on in the computer innovations that he pushed to bring to you and me.
"There's a very strong element of excitement, of being able to share what you've learned with the next generation." -Larry Tesler
You can learn more about Larry Tesler's life's works here.