Not just the writing world, but everyone who writes just about anything owe Larry a big thank you.
The first story I “wrote” I dictated.
Mom jotted down my story on a steno pad with her mysterious shorthand. She read it back to me, I edited it as she corrected her squiggles. I think she typed it up after that and sent it to the Flint Journal.
Here’s a little example of Gregg’s shorthand that Mom used.
I learned to type in high school and got pretty good at it. Good enough that college students hired me to type their theses. Bad enough that I had to use correction tape or White-Out to correct errors. Corrections with carbon copies was a tough job. And don’t even get me started on getting the paper back in alignment. Eee-gads. (I know some readers don’t even know what carbon paper is, and have no use whatsoever for correction tape. A typewriter is an antique for most people.)
I often marvel at how earlier writers did it.
Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott probably didn’t know shorthand or have the luxury of a typewriter.
Ink was messy and dear. Paper could blow away, get lost, rumple. And what if the author changed where she wanted a paragraph. They wrote with a quill.
I remember clearly the first time I used a Word Processor. No, it was not a computer. It was a stand alone Word Processor. What a miracle. I could go over to the machine and just start writing. I didn’t have to organize my thoughts with pencil and paper, eraser in hand. I didn’t have to get everything just right in my head before I began to compose. It was Larry that made that possible.
Larry Tesler created “cut,” “copy,” and “paste.”
He also made it possible to click and start typing.
I think about what my writing life would without Larry. It would be worse than a life without natural gas piped directly to my oven.
Larry went to Stanford and graduated with a Math degree in 1965. I bet essay writing was not his strong suit. I bet he never thought about writing a novel. I wonder if he knew every schoolchild’s success would be nurtured by his simple tools.
I wonder what gave Larry the idea to create keyboard shortcuts for “cut,” “copy,” “paste.” Did he physically cut and paste things on paper? Did he struggle with composing an essay on paper and have circles and arrows noting where the text should go in his next draft?
Larry died in February at the age of 74. Not that much older than me. He started working at Xerox when I started high school. A baby boomer like me.
Was Larry Tesler a Revolutionary? Hell, yes!
Thank you Larry. My writing life would not be the same without you. Heck, I’m not sure anything I do on the computer would be the same without you.
Note: I wish I could tell you how many times I used one of Larry’s shortcuts as I wrote these 533 words. I thought about counting them, but it would be like counting my breaths while I write.