Firehouse Blog

Happy 25th Photoshop!

JonPicAnyone who’s been working with computers for over a decade (or more) enjoys waxing nostalgic about how things have changed over the years. With Photoshop just celebrating its 25th anniversary, it seems like an appropriate time to bring out the grumpy old man voice.

“In my day, we didn’t have terabytes or gigabytes, we had floppies and 44MB syquests!”
“Our Photoshop didn’t have layers, and we LIKED it!”
“A CD-ROM drive on your computer? Madness!”
“Now get back in the darkroom and process that slide film!”

Photoshop25It’s hard to believe that Photoshop has been a part of Firehouse for 25 years. I wrote an article 5 years ago for the 20th anniversary. I described finding an old archive of Photoshop 3 and running it on one of my ancient Macs. It made me realize how all the innovations with later versions are taken for granted. Grumpy old man is exaggerating, of course, but imagine working in Photoshop without layers. Try making selections and composites with only the lasso and magic wand tools. The earliest versions of Photoshop were much more limited. But, it was still ground-breaking software and a ton of fun.

Photoshop began life with the Knoll brothers, John and Thomas, in 1987. Thomas, a PhD student at the University of Michigan, was writing subroutines to display grayscale image levels on his Mac Plus’s monochrome monitor. His brother John became intrigued due to his own interest in image processing at special effects house Industrial Light and Magic. He recommended Thomas expand the project into an image editing program and include color editing. Thomas eagerly took his advice and continued adding features as John requested them.

The little app was initially named Display and later ImagePro. John was convinced they could turn their project into a commercial venture and began gauging interest around Silicon Valley. In 1988, BarneyScan offered to bundle the application (now named Photoshop) with its slide scanner. About 200 copies of Photoshop were sold with the scanners. In late 1988, John presented a demo of Photoshop to Adobe and a legend was born. After many months of development, Adobe Photoshop 1.0 was released in February 1990.

Firehouse was an early adopter of Photoshop and I still recall my initial experiments that summer on Firehouse’s first Mac. At that time, we had no practical application for the software. Compositing images and text was all done with film and lithos in the darkroom. It was a tedious process which could take hours. And, after waiting at the exit of the film processor and seeing there was a mistake, many more hours. I vividly recall a conversation with Firehouse CEO Terry Corman in late 1990. He told me some day I’d just be sitting in front of a Mac to do my job and the stat cameras, darkrooms and photo enlargers would all be obsolete. It sounded like science fiction. And it happened even faster that any of us could have predicted. Within a year, Macs had replaced our antiquated slide production facility. Film recorders replaced darkrooms and then photo printers replaced film recorders.

25 years later and Photoshop remains an essential piece of the digital printing puzzle. So, thanks John and Thomas.

In honor of the 25th anniversary, noted Photoshop Evangelist Terry White made a tribute video running Photoshop version 1.0. And below that, we have John Knoll himself working in Photoshop 1.0. Enjoy.


Jon Heilman
Marketing Director

Comment (1)

  1. Terry Corman

    I vividly remember a very young Jon Heilman teaching himself mechanical photo composition from a book. Impossible task, but you did it.
    I fondly remember you taking an exotic film recorder out of the box it was shipped in, reading the instructions, and then doing a paying job to save the company’s reputation on the first day we had it. Impossible task, but you did it!
    And then I remember you advising me that Firehouse had to have a marketing department to survive in the 21st Century, and you did it!
    Thank You Jon,


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