Useful Inventions Throughout History: The Copy and Paste Technique

By: Tova Shmulewitz  |  November 25, 2020

By Tova Shmulewitz

Most, if not all, people would agree that some of the most basic and useful commands on a computer are the cut, copy, and paste functions. Ctrl (or cmd) X, C, and V have become essential to anyone using a word processor for work, school or even just for fun. For the very few who might not be aware of these commands, here is a helpful key:

Cut (ctrl/cmd X) removes the word/s selected, and copies them.

Copy (ctrl/cod C) copies the word/s selected, but does not remove them.

Paste (ctrl/cmd V) reinserts the word/s that were either cut or copied.

These commands may be the most used shortcuts on a keyboard, but has anyone ever considered where these practical operations came from? Who were they invented by? Why do they have these names?

The titles ‘cut’ and ‘paste’ refer to the system that was in place before there were computers or photocopiers, a time when printing presses were still being used. When certain phrases or words or objects had to be moved to a new or different place, the only way to do this would be to manually cut out the section, and paste it into its new position with glue. The antiquated terms have been given a technological meaning, as we are essentially doing the same action, but electronically. 

The shortcuts were invented by a man named Larry Tesler. Tesler was a computer scientist in Silicon Valley during the very early days of computing, before computers were commonly used machines. He has been credited with inventing not only the cut, copy, and paste commands, but also the ‘find & replace’ command in word processors. He specialised in user-interfaces, spending his career trying and succeeding to make computers easier to use for the common person. Unfortunately he passed away in February 2020, but his legacy lives on through these commands that we use in our daily lives!

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