Early Computer Programming Guru Passes Away

February 28, 2020
Post by Kirk M. Hartung

The inventor of the ubiquitous “cut- copy- paste” function for digital documents, Larry Tesler, passed away on Feb. 16 at the age of 74 at his home in Portola Valley, California. Tesler, who grew up in the Bronx, became interested in computers in the 1950’s, as a new emerging technology, when he saw them as a means to predict presidential elections. Tesler taught himself computer programming before going to Stanford University in 1961 at age 16, where he studied computer science, and obtained a degree in mathematics. While at Stanford, he wrote computer programs for Joshua Lederber, a medical researcher and Nobel laureate. After graduating, he spent a few years as a busy programming consultant, until a recession in the late 1960’s forced him to find something new, and he went to work at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. During his career, Tesler worked as a computer scientist at Xerox, PARC, Apple (chief scientist), Amazon (VP of shopping experience), Yahoo! and 23andMe. He finished his career much as he began, as an independent consultant, to Silicon Valley companies working on their user interfaces and experiences. He is credited as the originator of the terms “user-friendly,” “browser,” and “what you see is what you get” (later shortened to WYSIWYG). Telser also worked on the first functionable ethernet protocol, and helped develop the first computer system designed around a graphical user interface.
Kirk Hartung is a patent attorney and chair of the mechanical and electrical practice group at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. For additional information please visit or contact Kirk directly via email at

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