Cut Copy Paste

The latest Daring Fireball got me thinking about the history of cut/copy/paste. Specifically, Gruber talks about the mnemonics and keyboard placement of the X/C/V shortcuts.

One thing he didn’t mention, but that I’ve always privately speculated about (you do realize this is my nerd blog, right?) is the cut shortcut (Ctrl/Cmd-X) being associated with an xacto knife. Beyond the mnemonics device, consider

  1. How computer desktop publishing replaced the “Paste Up” layout process, which involved lots of xacto knife cutting

  2. That the older unix text editors always refer to similar functionality as “yanking” and “killing” rather than pasting and cutting

I have no idea if it’s true or not, but I’d bet even money those early Xerox Parc/Apple folks had it mind. It’s a pity this kind of care and research went out of style by the late 80s.

Originally published April 27, 2006