Source Code for Adobe’s PostScript Publicly Released
And 40 years after it’s creation…
The Computer History Museum is excited to publicly release, for the first time, the source code for the breakthrough printing technology, PostScript. We thank Adobe, Inc. for their permission and support, and John Warnock [Adobe’s 82-year-old co-founder] for championing this release….
From the start of Adobe Systems Incorporated (now Adobe, Inc.) exactly forty years ago in December 1982, the firm’s cofounders envisioned a new kind of printing press — one that was fundamentally digital, using the latest advances in computing. Initial discussions by cofounders Chuck Geschke and John Warnock with computer-makers such as Digital Equipment Corporation and Apple convinced them that software was the key to the new digital printing press. Their vision: Any computer could connect with printers and typesetters via a common language to print words and images at the highest fidelity. Led by Warnock, Adobe assembled a team of skillful and creative programmers to create this new language. In addition to the two cofounders, the team included Doug Brotz, Bill Paxton, and Ed Taft. The language they created was in fact a complete programming language, named PostScript, and was released by Adobe in 1984.
By treating everything to be printed the same, in a common mathematical description, PostScript granted abilities offered nowhere else. Text and images could be scaled, rotated, and moved at will, as in the opening image to this essay. Adobe licensed PostScript to computer-makers and printer manufacturers, and the business jumped into a period of hypergrowth….
Today, most printers rely on PostScript technology either directly or through a technology that grew out of it: PDF (Portable Document Format). John Warnock championed the development of PDF in the 1990s, transforming PostScript into a technology that was safer and easier to use as the basis for digital documents, but retaining all the benefits of interoperability, fidelity, and quality. Over the decades, Adobe had developed PDF tremendously, enhancing its features, and making it a crucial standard for digital documents, printing, and for displaying graphics of all kinds on the screens from laptops to smartphones and smartwatches.
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