My Last Conversation with Larry Tesler

Originally published at:

Larry Tesler, a pioneering computer scientist and long-time Apple executive, has died at age 74. Adam Engst shares a few of Tesler’s achievements and the full text of a 1997 email conversation they had on a private mailing list when Tesler was Apple’s Internet czar.


I was fortunate to meet Larry just the once, very briefly, and took the opportunity to thank him for inspiring me to always build modeless user interfaces after I read his original PARC papers while working on AI research in the early 80’s. He seemed bemused that somebody would remember such work from so long ago and that it had such an effect.

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Back in 1995 when my 7 year old son wanted to learn to program his own computer games there was nothing available that was suitable for that age group. Larry led the group that developed Cocoa. When Apple decided to abandon the product (and reuse the name for the transition to OS X), they made it available for free download. When Larry left Apple, he started Stagecast to develop Stagecast Creator into a commercial product. I was starting an internet store in 2001, and he graciously allowed me to carry it in my store. I spoke to him on the phone a few times when he was with Amazon. I thought he was a generous guy. He was also heavily involved with the guerilla project in the Santa Cruz Mountains when I lived in the Bay Area.

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Thanks for posting this Adam. It’s fascinating to be reminded of what it was like at the dawn of the Internet when we were still feeling our way around. It’s hard to fathom that not even 25 years ago buying stuff on the net was a sign of geek cred. I made my first Amazon purchase on December 30, 1997: five Star Trek novels.

ad hominem attacks have no place on the net

Sigh. Such idealists. We had no idea…

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I think I may be able to outdo you here. I purchased items over “the Internet” before there was a “world wide web” (at least before anybody outside of CERN had heard of it).

My first Internet purchase was buying a music album (a cassette of The Buggles’ Adventures In Modern Recording) by e-mailing someone running a store via news groups and an FTP site where you could download a text file containing the catalog. I send a mail message asking about availability, he replied with the price. I mailed him a check. He mailed me my tape.

This would have been some time about 1989, if I remember correctly.


Indeed. I still believe this, but clearly I am in the minority.

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Clearly. But at least you’ve carved out your own little civil corner of the Internet. I’m grateful.


My grandfather used to one-up Sturgeon’s Law and say “90% of everything is garbage, including 90% of the remaining 10%”.

This is painfully obvious on the Internet. There are web sites and apps and forums for absolutely everything. And 99% of it is garbage. But that simply means that the good stuff (including this site), when it is discovered is all that much more valuable.


Perhaps in a minority Adam but certainly not alone.