Vale two pioneers of word-processing, Lawrence Tesler and Gary Starkweather

Farewell to Lawrence Tesler and Gary Starkweather.  One gave us the clipboard with cut, copy and paste as well as the ridding computers of modes.  Mr Starkweather invented the laser printer, a major innovation for the time.

Back in the 70’s, word-processing programs had two modes – editing and viewing.  Edit mode had rough text where you had to type everything and set switches for the little formatting that was available.  Then switch to View/Read mode which displayed a rendering of the printed page.

As you can imagine, this was slow and disruptive.  Switching back and forth to see how each page would look.

Lawrence Tesler pushed the idea of a single edit and view window – what we now call WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get).  He even had a car number plate NOMODES.   We take single window edit/view for granted now but it was a revelation back then.

Cut, Copy and Paste is what Mr Tesler is best known for.  The concept of the clipboard to move and clone content is another thing we accept without thinking.

The shortcuts Ctrl + X, Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V are in any computer system these days, even ones that don’t normally have a keyboard attached.

Printing Pioneer

Another pioneer of that age died recently.  Gary Starkweather invented the laser printer which is amazingly forward thinking because personal computers didn’t exist yet.

His work has been described as “arguably the greatest invention made in a Xerox research center,” which is really saying something, considering the history of that place.

If that wasn’t enough, Gary Starkweather also won an Academy Award …


For more about the early development of personal computers, check out Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker piece – Creation Myth featuring both Lawrence Tesler and Gary Starkweather.