Lawrence Tessler was part of the team at Xerox PARC that revolutionized how we interact with computers. They created the mouse with its pointer, icons that could be clicked on to open files or programs, dragging with a mouse, and so on. Tessler had a small part in the initial innovations but then a large one in creating the first modern text editing program:
Early in his Xerox career (he began there in 1973), Mr. Tesler and another researcher, Tim Mott, developed a program known as Gypsy, which did away with the restrictive modes that had made text editing complicated. For example, until Gypsy, most text-editing software had one mode for entering text and another for editing it. . . . For many years the license plate on his car read, “NO MODES.”I bring up Tessler and Xerox PARC because it has always bothered me that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates get so much credit for creating personal computing when most of the key work had already been done by Stanford, MIT, Xerox and IBM before they came along. Our weird system lavishes billions on people who step in at a very late stage in the game and figure out how to profit from other people's work. Another good example is Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook when all the necessary structure for social media was in place; in fact there were already other social media platforms. He added the last 1% of the product and became insanely rich.
His first breakthrough at Xerox PARC came when he took a newly hired secretary, sat her in front of a blank computer monitor and took notes while she described how she would prefer to compose documents with a computer. She proceeded to describe a very simple system, which Mr. Tesler then implemented with Mr. Mott.
The Gypsy program offered such innovations as the “cut and paste” analogy for moving blocks of text and the ability to select text by dragging the cursor through it while holding down a mouse button. It also shared with an earlier Xerox editor, Bravo, what became known as “what you see is what you get” printing (or WYSIWYG), a phrase Mr. Tesler used to describe a computer display that mirrored printed output.
And Gypsy brought to fruition the idea of opening a computer file by simply clicking on a screen icon while pointing at it with the mouse cursor. Before that, files had to be opened by typing the file name into a command line.