To honor the inventor of the copy/paste function, Larry Tesler, paste a comment with whatever's on your clipboard (unless it's private or embarrassing).

"Personal computers" used to be sort of an oxymoron. There wasn't very much that was personable about them—Unless you had a computer science degree, you'd be hopeless to get the machine to do anything you wanted. At first, there weren't nice graphics or windows or even a mouse to click with. The accessible and useful machines we have today owe everything to people like Larry Tesler.

personal computers
The three personal computers referred to as the "1977 Trinity": The Commodore PET, the Apple II, and the TRS-80 Model I, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Larry Tesler was born in the Bronx in 1945, studied computer science at Stanford, and started working in Silicon Valley in the early 1960s. He became director of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), which famously developed the sort of mouse-based graphical interface we use today. Tesler, with colleague Tim Mott, also developed a little word processor called Gypsy that featured commands for removing and duplicating text—for which they coined the terms "cut," "copy," and "paste." (Fun fact: it's reported that their idea for cut/copy/paste could've been based on an old paper editing practice where texts and books would be physically cut up and rearranged, like Thomas Jefferson's Bible which CTRL + X's out any references to miracles or supernatural events.)

When Xerox wanted to invest in the fledgling Apple, Tesler gave Apple's leadership a tour of PARC—including one Steve Jobs. Tesler would later leave Xerox for Apple, where he worked for 17 years and became chief scientist.

apple lisa
The Apple Lisa, the first personal computer to implement Tesler's copy/paste commands, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Modeless or Bust

Having a good user interface was a priority for Apple, and Tesler's contributions were valued. Tesler had to campaign for some ideas, though. He was very fond of "modeless" computing, or that a program shouldn't have different "modes" that toggle the same inputs to mean different things. Like when you put in the wrong password because Caps Lock was on? Yeah, that's a mode error, and your righteous fury stokes the Tesler legacy. Caps lock isn't so bad, but at first, personal computers had all kinds of complicated modes that could make just typing out words a labyrinthine task.

So strong was his belief that his license plate read "NO MODES" and his personal website is

license plate
Tesler's license plate, courtesy Larry Tesler.


An Uncopiable Legacy

Tesla gets a lion's share of credit for accessible personal computers. While he isn't a household name like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates is, he always championed the user's experience. He passed away at 74 years old on Monday, February 17, 2020. 

In memoriam, consider how his contributions affect your day-to-day:

Coding and Programming

Computer engineers and developers copy and paste code all the time. While many advise against copying code en-masse from another coder without understanding how it works (call that cargo cult programming), coders deal with huge chunks of funky techno-hieroglyphics that repeat in dozens of places. It would be mind-numbingly tedious (and introduce a lot of errors) to retype all of it by hand—so for all the software products we use that go right, we can thank Tesler.


ASCII art is a quirky retro-relic of a time when emails, word processors, and printers only supported keyboard characters, not images. Clever character-smiths could make freeform art by carefully spacing out different characters. Now, enthusiasts can share this art easily with a little CTRL + C and CTRL + V (or whatever it is Apple users do, Command?). I found this sweet one on ASCII Art Archive (if it just looks like jumbled nonsense, then we have different formatting or screen ratios) Search some out for yourself and put one in your next email, maybe.

         !...:!TVBBBRPFT||||||||||!!^^""'   ||||
         !.......:!?|||||!!^^""'            ||||
         !.........||||                     ||||
         !.........||||  ##                 ||||
         !.........||||                     ||||
         !.........||||                     ||||
         !.........||||                     ||||
         !.........||||                     ||||
         `.........||||                    ,||||
          .;.......||||               _.-!!|||||
   .,uodWBBBBb.....||||       _.-!!|||||||||!:'
!..YBBBBBBBBBBBBBBb!!||||||||!iof68BBBBBBRPFT?!::   `.
!....YBBBBBBBBBBBBBBbaaitf68BBBBBBRPFT?!:::::::::     `.
!......YBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBRPFT?!::::::;:!^"`;:::       `.
!........YBBBBBBBBBBRPFT?!::::::::::^''...::::::;         iBBbo.
`..........YBRPFT?!::::::::::::::::::::::::;iof68bo.      WBBBBbo.
  `..........:::::::::::::::::::::::;iof688888888888b.     `YBBBP^'
    `........::::::::::::::::;iof688888888888888888888b.     `
            `' !!988888888888888888888888899fT|!^"'

Chain Emails and Copypasta

Circa 2004, copypasted emails forwarded to whole address books were all the rage.

One such common chain email promising $$$, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

But since then, copy-pasted spam nonsense has evolved. In Reddit threads and Twitch chats, often-emoji-riddled blocks of text called copypasta multiply into their own inside-jokes and memes. Here's one such copypasta from a thread at

The inventor of copy and paste function Larry Tesler died today. In honor we should all paste whatever on our clipboard in the comments here!

Thanks, Larry Tesler. Leave a comment on how you use cut/copy/paste!