Can you picture a life where you constantly have to retype the same text word for word? Have you ever wondered where the cut, copy, and paste computer commands came from and made the previous sentence seem so absurd?

Many computer users have lauded the copy and paste commands as lifesavers since they eliminate the time-consuming task of reproducing data already available elsewhere. They deal in saved time, which in the digital era is a valuable resource. 

Copy-paste is particularly valuable since it’s the digital equivalent of a practice that was formerly physical or print-based. Before the invention of the computer, cutting, copying, and pasting played a significant role in many office workflows; and copy-paste was a means to digitize this process.1

So, who invented cut, copy, and paste?

The man behind the invention is an early computer icon, Larry Tesler.1

Who is Larry Tesler?

Computer scientist Larry Tesler is best recognized for developing the fundamental computer ideas of cut, copy, and paste. Tesler earned a degree in science and math (computer science) from Stanford University in 1965. He joined Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in 1973 after conducting AI research there, where he created cut, copy, and paste.2

larry tesler

Cut, Copy and Paste!

Tesler and Tim Mott, two scientists working on  smalltalk-76 programming at Xerox Corporation’s ALC, implemented copy and paste between 1973 and 1976. But, the feature only really gained popularity under the two operating systems, Apple Lisa (1983) and Macintosh (1984), which made use of the cut (x), copy (c), and insert (p) keys. When trying to replace the graphic design and commercial printing’s setting technology in the desktop publishing era, long after attempts to replace simple typewriters, the word paste was used instead of put, place, or insert. Of course, this is the culmination of Tesler’s work at Apple. Windows and every other computer on the market were quick to adopt it.3

Apart from copy-paste, Tesler worked on the first word processor with a graphical user interface and a programming language. He was also well known for favoring modeless software.1 Tesler is credited with coining the phrase “friendly user interface” as well. The phrase was first used in a 1975 article titled “The Office of the Future” that appeared in Business Week. Tesler claimed that the phrase “user friendly,” which we use more frequently, was already in use before the 1975 publication.2

He left the world an incredible legacy over the course of seven decades, with inventions and innovations that shaped programming and computers.

And there’s no denying that the work he did on copy-and-paste and other user-focused user interfaces has impacted almost everyone. It seems that some contributions are very difficult to copy and paste!


  1. Copy-paste: Invention, origins, and history. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2022, from 
  2. Who was Larry Tesler, the inventor of the cut, copy, paste command? (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2022, from 
  3. Meet the inventor of Cut, Copy and Paste – Larry Tesler – Education Today News. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2022, from