Larry Tesler, Silicon Valley pioneer who created ‘cut’, ‘copy’ and ‘paste’, dies at 74

Black-and-white photo of Larry Tesler using the Xerox Parc Alto personal computer system in the 1970s.
In this 1970s photo, Larry Tesler uses the Xerox Parc Alto early personal computer system. Tesler, the Silicon Valley pioneer who created the now-ubiquitous computer concepts such as “cut,” “copy” and “paste,” has died.

Larry Tesler, the Silicon Valley pioneer who created now-ubiquitous computer concepts such as “cut,” “copy” and “paste,” has died at his home outside Palo Alto. He was 74.

Tesler made using computers easier for generations of users as a proponent and pioneer of what he called “modeless editing.” That meant a user wouldn’t have to use a keyboard to switch between modes to write and edit, for example.

“The inventor of cut/copy & paste, find & replace, and more was former Xerox researcher Larry Tesler. Your workday is easier thanks to his revolutionary ideas,” Xerox said in a tweet Wednesday.


Tesler was born in New York on April 24, 1945, and attended Stanford University, where he received a degree in mathematics in 1965.

In 1973, he joined Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, a division of the copier company that worked on creating computer products. There, he pioneered concepts that helped make computers more user-friendly. That included such concepts as moving text through cut and paste and inserting text by clicking on a section and just typing.

He continued that work when he joined Apple in 1980. At Apple, he worked on a variety of products including the Lisa computer, the Newton personal digital assistant and the Macintosh.

After leaving Apple in 1997, he co-founded an education software company and held executive positions at Amazon, Yahoo and the genetics-testing service 23andMe before turning to independent consulting.

In 2012, Tesler told the BBC that he enjoyed working with younger people.

“There’s a very strong element of excitement, of being able to share what you’ve learned with the next generation,” he said.