The blessed CTRL+Z is one of the most useful shortcuts ever. Its origin remains a mystery

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If you make a mistake doing something on the computer, nothing happens. You give Ctrl + Z and problem solved. This shortcut, one of the most widespread along with copy and paste, has become a true blessing in our daily lives. The curious thing is that while the creator of the latter is known, the origin of Ctrl+Z is more diffuse.

Blessed ‘Undo’ or ‘Undo’. The English term (pronounced ‘walked‘) is already an old acquaintance of all kinds of operating systems and applications, and has become an almost obligatory option in any modern application, and its blessed shortcut (Ctrl+Z on Windows and Linux, Command+Z on macOS) saves many uncomfortable situations and is one of the most useful and used in our day to day.

No one knows who created it. Larry Tesler, who died in 2020, was the creator of the copy and paste functions (Ctrl-C / Ctrl V on Windows and Linux), but the origin of ‘Ctrl-Z’ is somewhat uncertain. According to Wikipediathe first use One of this ‘Undo’ features was the File Retrieval and Editing System (FRESS), a hypertext editor developed in 1968 at Brown University by Andries van Dam and some of his students, such as Bob Wallace. It is not very clear how the idea arose, but from there the proposal was gaining strength.

Xerox PARC enters the scene. Xerox’s celebrated research lab was not only the birthplace of the graphical user interface: the obsession with usability advanced that concept as well. Xerox PARC’s Bravo publisher already had that ‘Undo’ option in 1974, and in 1976 two IBM engineers explained how “it would be very useful to allow users to ‘undo’ at least the immediately preceding command (by issuing some special ‘undo’ command). It was Xerox PARC that assigned the shortcut Ctrl-Z to that command, though who is not known made that particular decision.

Lisa. It is no accident what happened next. Larry Tesler, who worked at PARC between 1973 and 1980 – and thus gave birth to the concept of the ‘Undo’ function – was one of the people present during the famous visit of Steve Jobs in 1979. A year later he was working in the ambitious Apple Lisa, and together with another legend (Bill Atkinson) he promoted the integration of the ‘Undo’ command in the operating system.

Undo a thousand times. That first integration only allowed undo and redo (‘Redo’) only once, but in the 80s multiple levels for those commands would arrive. It was like traveling back in time in your work session, and it quickly became a very popular option.

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From UNIX and the Amiga to infinity and beyond. The EMACS editor for UNIX systems (Linux would take a few years to appear) was one of the first, while CygnusEd was the first editor to offer multiple levels of ‘undo’ and ‘redo’ for the Amiga. The rest, as they say, is history, and in fact the concept did not stop there, and was applied, for example, to other areas such as database management with ‘rollback’ or reversion’, and also to software version control.

Image: Manzana

If you make a mistake doing something on the computer, nothing happens. You give Ctrl + Z and problem solved.…

If you make a mistake doing something on the computer, nothing happens. You give Ctrl + Z and problem solved.…

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