Larry Tesler perhaps wasn’t the most high-profile figure in tech history, but his impact is most certainly felt in ways big and small to this day.
Tesler, who died this week at the age of 74, is widely credited with the invention of the basic idea thanks to his role at the famed Xerox PARC, the experimental research center that helped formulate many of the general ideas behind the personal computer. While there, Tesler came up with Gypsy, one of the first WYSIWYG document editors that was reliant on a keyboard-mouse combo, for an Xerox subsidiary, Ginn & Company. While an earlier Xerox PARC tool named Bravo predated Gypsy, Gypsy was “modeless,” meaning that the user interface was always in an editable state, rather than an editor with modes, which requires commands to be typed first before text can be modified. (The modern-day Unix editor Vim is an example of a mode-based editor, which is relatively uncommon in the modern day.)
To allow for this, Tesler came up with a mechanism that allowed for simple editing with the mouse. That mechanism for moving around type came to be known as cut/copy-paste.