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Larry Tesler, UI Visionary, Dies at 74

Luke Dormehl, in a detailed obituary at Cult of Mac:

Larry Tesler, a pioneering computer scientist who worked at Apple from 1980 to 1997 and created computerized cut, copy and paste, died Monday at the age of 74.

Tesler served as VP of AppleNet and Apple’s Advanced Technology Group. During his time at Apple, he played a key role in the development of products ranging from the Lisa to the Newton MessagePad. And that was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to his contribution to computing. […]

Tesler was passionate about something called modeless computing, meaning a type of computing (now taken for granted) in which the user doesn’t have to switch constantly between different input states. His Dodge Valiant bore a customized license plate reading “NO MODES.” He regularly wore a T-shirt warning colleagues not to “Mode Me In.” And his Twitter handle was @nomodes.

This is so terribly sad. Tesler was a titan in the field. Much of what we take for granted as fundamental in human-computer interaction today is thanks to Larry Tesler.

His death is especially jarring to me, because I’ve been thinking a lot about his “no modes” mantra just this month, specifically in the context of the recent debate regarding iPad multitasking. One simple way to describe what’s wrong with iPadOS multitasking is that it is a fundamentally modal design, and modes are generally bad. (It’s also hard to overstate how preposterously modal most user interfaces were prior to the GUIs Tesler helped pioneer at Xerox and Apple.)

I met Tesler a few years back, when I was invited to lunch with a few of his fellow early Mac luminaries. He was everything you’d think: gracious, friendly, and whip smart. And he was embarrassingly complimentary regarding my work at Daring Fireball. I had been thinking about reaching out to him to get his thoughts on the iPad.

So it goes.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020