The YouTube channel ColdFusion published an in-depth look at the history of Adobe. In the photo and video industry, Adobe is a giant. While some people may not be in favor of the company’s more recent push toward a subscription model, nearly everyone can agree that Adobe and its software has had a massive influence.
Tracing Adobe’s history requires going back all the way to 1982 when John Warnock and Charles Geschke founded the company in Warnock’s garage. How did the pair decide on the name Adobe? There was a creek behind the Warnock home called Adobe. And the company’s first logo? It was designed by John Warnock’s wife, Marva Warnock, a graphic designer and illustrator.
|Adobe co-founders John Warnock and Charles Geschke|
Warnock and Geschke had worked together at Xerox Parc and developed a printing code, PostScript. The duo had pitched their development to Xerox but the higher-ups weren’t interested. After being rebuked, Warnock and Geschke left the company to found Adobe. It wasn’t long before others took notice of Adobe, including Steve Jobs, who the very same year Adobe was founded tried to buy the company for $5M USD. Warnock and Geschke refused to sell outright but did eventually sell Jobs a 19% share of the company at five times its valuation, making Adobe the first company in the history of Silicon Valley to turn a profit in its first year.
With a license in hand for PostScript, Apple’s foray into laser printing changed publishing forever, allowing people and businesses to print and publish content without the use of expensive photo typesetters. As Dagogo Altraide states in his video below, the idea that you could purchase a Macintosh computer and Apple LaserWriter printer, underpinned by Adobe’s PostScript coding, and be able to publish completely changed the industry.
Adobe’s first few years went very well, and the company became publicly traded on the NASDAQ index in 1986. The Adobe more familiar to us today started to take shape in 1987 with the launch of the vector-based drawing program, Adobe Illustrator, which is still used today. Adobe Photoshop, on the other hand, was not developed in-house at Adobe. Thomas Knoll began working on a grayscale image editor while a PhD student in Michigan. Upon advice from his brother, John, Thomas took a sabbatical from his post-graduate studies to turn his project into a fully-fledged image editing program.
As Thomas continued his work on the program, John gave demonstrations in Silicon Valley, including to Adobe and Apple. Adobe purchased the license to distribute the software in late 1988. Adobe Photoshop was released exclusively on the Macintosh in January of 1990 with a lifetime license and price of $895. This price may seem steep, but digital photo retouching services cost upwards of $300 an hour at the time.
|Thomas Knoll showing off Adobe Photoshop on a Macintosh computer|
In the video above, Altraide recaps an incident in 1992 in which Charles Geschke was held at gunpoint and kidnapped as he exited his vehicle in Adobe’s parking lot. The pair of kidnappers held Geschke for a $650,000 ransom and told his wife, Nan, that Charles would be killed and dismembered if she didn’t follow their instructions. After four days in captivity and with the help of the FBI, Charles was rescued, and his captors were arrested and eventually sentenced to life sentences.
Adobe’s business moved forward and the next year, Photoshop was ported to Microsoft Windows, beginning a rapid expansion in Adobe’s software offerings and influence. To learn what happened next and find out more about Adobe’s torrid pace of acquisitions and developments in the decades since watch ColdFusion’s full video above. For more from ColdFusion, click here.