Adobe co-founder Warnock passes at 82

The co-founder of graphics and publishing software giant Adobe, Dr. John Warnock, died Sunday, aged 82.

Without his work, and that of his co-founder Dr. Charles Geschke (who passed away in 2021), the desktop publishing revolution would probably not have occurred when it did. When, in 1982, the duo was unable to convince their bosses at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) of the commercialization potential of InterPress, a page description language they had developed, they left the company, formed Adobe, and developed their own product, PostScript.

Apple became the first company to license it for its LaserWriter printers in 1985. By 1987, PostScript had become the industry standard printer language, licensed to 19 printer vendors and used in over 400 third-party software products.

Among his many other innovations, in 1991, Warnock described a system that evolved into the Portable Document Format (PDF) file format that is still in use today.

Warnock was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in October, 1940, and received his doctorate from the University of Utah. He was chief executive officer (CEO) of Adobe from its founding until 2000, and was co-chairman of the board with Geschke until 2017. He remained a board member until his death.

Among his many awards and honours, he received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama; the Computer Entrepreneur Award from the IEEE Computer Society; the American Electronics Association Medal of Achievement; and the Marconi Prize for contributions to information science and communications.

“While the impact that his innovations have had are countless, it is his indomitable spirit, passion and belief in building a company with strong values that has impacted all of us who have had the good fortune of working at Adobe,” Adobe chair and CEO Shantanu Narayen wrote in a message to employees.

“John was incredibly insightful on which technologies would delight customers as well as create business value. John and his wife, Marva, who is a graphics artist, used our products constantly and set the standard for customer empathy.”

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Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner has been interpreting tech for businesses for over 20 years and has worked in the industry as well as writing about it, giving her a unique perspective into the issues companies face. She has both IT credentials and a business degree.

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