December 03, 2007

Adobe: The second quarter-century begins

On December 2, 1982, John Warnock and Chuck Geschke started Adobe Systems.  Today the once-tiny maker of printer software begins the next quarter-century of its existence.

In 1993, my freshman year in college, I attended a meeting of the Notre Dame MadMacs user group.  I can’t tell you a single other thing about that evening, but I remember that they played a video (on a computer! my God!!) from a company I’d never heard of.  On screen an animation depicted a hand opening up to reveal (as I remember) an eye on its palm.  “Imagine what you can create,” read an arcing line of text above the hand.  And below, “Create what you can imagine.  Adobe.” 

And then I realized…like I was shot…Like I was shot with a diamond…a diamond bullet right through my forehead…  Okay, perhaps that’s a bit much–but I thought, “I don’t know who these guys are, but I’ve got to find out.”  Photoshop was shortly to make one hell of an impression on me, and all these years later, I can’t believe–still cannot believe–that I work here.  (Some part of me still suspects that my car drifted off the road after they cancelled LiveMotion, and that all of this is playing out in ultra slow-mo, Owl Creek Bridge-style.)

If you’re interested in the history of Adobe, check out Pamela Pfiffner’s excellent Inside the Publishing Revolution, released to coincide with the company’s 20th anniversary.  Excerpts & some fun photos (David Hockney meeting Photoshop; young Steve Jobs) are on Adobe.com.  I’d love to see an updated edition, one that includes the history of Macromedia (and the various companies that formed it) and more.

As for the future, one goal comes to my mind over and over: radically improving the user experience by radically democratizing how Photoshop* is developed, and by whom.  Instead of measuring the Photoshop team in the dozens, let’s measure it in the thousands–or the hundreds of thousands.  Let’s leverage the ol’ series of tubes, helping anyone with a good idea share it, opening the application skin to far more developers, even upending what a document can be.  Photoshop belongs to a whole lot more than one company or group of developers; it belongs to a global community of the visually expressive.  It’s this team’s job to keep anything from blocking the light.

Here’s to the future,
J.

* I’d speak on behalf of other apps, but it’s already presumptuous enough for me to speak on behalf of Photoshop.

Posted by John Nack at 1:17 AM on December 03, 2007
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