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From working in Xerox to creating one of world’s most used softwares – The story of John Warnock and Adobe



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Formerly known as Adobe Systems Incorporated, Adobe is an American computer software company listed as a Fortune 500 company and currently ranks 22 on the elite list. Among the multiple software applications which they created, the most famous ones are the Adobe Acrobat Reader and Writer and Adobe Photoshop.

The Adobe PDF Reader and Writer is a text editor and viewer software used by almost everyone who owns a smartphone, desktop or laptop. Adobe Photoshop is a popular image editing and enhancement tool widely used in the digital industry and it has become so advance with the passing years as it is used often for making professional films as well.

Adobe was founded by John Warnock and Charles Geschke and it was started in John Warnock’s garage in Los Altos, California.  The name of the Company comes from the Adobe Creek, which used to run behind John Warnock’s house. Both these aspiring businessmen set on a journey back in 1982, which ended up having a huge impact on the lives of billions.

Interestingly, both the founders earlier used to work with the Xerox Corporation before they quit their jobs to start Adobe. Adobe’s first product was called Postscript, specialized printing software that became the international standard for computer printing as it included algorithms describing the letter fonts of various languages.

Adobe’s contribution to software

When Adobe put out their Postscript product, Steve Jobs offered to buy Adobe for five million dollars but was rejected by the founders.  Upon being urged by their investors to work something out with Steve Jobs, they agreed to sell 19 % of shares, for which Jobs paid five times multiple of their valuation at the time.

They were also offered a five-year license fee in advance. This made Adobe the first company in Silicon Valley to become profitable in its first year of business.

In the mid-1980s, Adobe entered the digital market with Illustrator, a vector-based drawing program for Apple Macintosh.  Adobe released its first true game-changing software called Photoshop for Macintosh, a graphics editing tool. It slowly dominated the market and made its way to the top, so much so it is now an international tool used for image editing.

Adobe also developed and introduced a new document format, the Portable Document Format (PDF,) as well as the Adobe Acrobat Reader software. PDF is now an international standard. In the last 26 years, since the time it was created, PDF has become the most used document format after Word, which was created by Microsoft.

Currently, Indian-origin mastermind Shantanu Narayen heads the Adobe and he has been in this position for over a decade now. What he is doing to the best of his ability is to keep up the good work made by his founders and is also managing to take it onwards and upwards with his innovative techniques.