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Larry Tesla, The Hero?

Posted on 1st March 2020

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In the last week there was news that Larry Tesla had died at the age of 74. This, of course means that he is now hailed as a hero, and anything questionable in his past will now be forgotten.

Many people will have no idea who he was. He worked at Xerox-PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), and is the man primarily responsible for inventing the keyboard shortcuts <Ctrl>-c (copy), <Ctrl>-x (cut) and <Ctrl>-v (paste). These shortcuts are used millions of times per day (I am using them as I write this).

Xerox-PARC (now simply called PARC) was responsible for inventing a huge amount of intellectual property: laser printing, Ethernet, the modern personal computer, graphical user interface (GUI) and desktop paradigm (the WIMP {Windows, Icons, Mouse, Pointer} interface), object-oriented programming, ubiquitous computing, electronic paper, amorphous silicon (a-Si) applications, the mouse and advancing very-large-scale integration (VLSI) for semiconductors.

Larry Tesla left PARC and joined Apple. Amazingly, Apple went on to utilise a large number of PARC inventions including those keyboard shortcuts, and the WIMP interface. I don't know for sure whether Larry Tesla was involved in the adoption of PARC technology by Apple, since there were other people who left PARC to join Apple, Microsoft, IBM, etc. I don't have an issue with that; apparently neither did PARC.

What I have always had an issue with was the fact that both Apple and Microsoft later claimed some of that PARC technology as their own, went to court over other companies who used it, and charged licence fees for its use, all for things they didn't create.

Of course, now that Larry Tesla is dead, we are not supposed to criticise him (I have already got into trouble for suggesting that his legacy is not all good). It is just more of that political correctness nonsense that I so despise.