John Warnock, the founder of Adobe Systems whose innovations in computer graphics including the ubiquitous PDF made today’s visually rich digital experiences possible, died on August 19 at his home in Los Altos, California. He was 82 years old.
The cause was pancreatic cancer, Adobe, introduced by Dr. Warnock in 1982 chuck geschkesaid in a statement.
Until Dr. Warnock and Adobe came along, desktop printing was a difficult, expensive, and unsatisfactory endeavor. Users relied either on a clunky dot-matrix printer that produced pixelated text, or on a specialized typesetting machine that could cost as much as $10,000 and took up much of a room.
Dr. Warnock developed protocols that loaded themselves into the desktop printer, and accurately rendered what the computer sent them. Adobe’s first such protocol, PostScript, went into Apple’s revolutionary LaserWriter, released in 1985, and within a few years became the industry standard.
Licensed PostScript to hundreds of software and hardware companies helped make Adobe rich. But the company was largely unknown to the public until 1993, when it released Acrobat, a program designed to render and read files called Portable Document Format, or PDF.
PDF was the result of Dr. Warnock’s abiding passion since graduate school: finding a way to ensure that graphics displayed on one computer – whether words or pictures – would appear on another computer, or on the page of a printer, without any Look exactly like you care. Manufacturer’s
“Figuring out how to transmit documents was a holy grail in computer science,” he said. 2019 Interview with Oxford University,
Acrobat and PDF were not an immediate success, even after Adobe made its Acrobat Reader free for download. The company’s board wanted to retire him, but Dr. Warnock was adamant.
“I think the crossover point is that if I can go to General Motors and say, ‘I can give you your information faster and cheaper than I can on paper,’ ” They said. told The New York Times in 1991. “You’re talking about millions of dollars in savings.”
PDF eventually became the standard, as the ease of sharing clear, precise documents across computer systems made the long-conceived paperless office a reality.
Although Adobe is best known for PDF, its dominance in the software industry owes much to an entire suite of design programs created by Dr. Warnock over the years, including InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator.
Overall, these programs helped make the modern personal computing experience what it is, from what had turned into a gargantuan aesthetic experience of obscure commands and monochromatic images.
“Making the computer into a machine that we can use to produce visual and print culture was not predestined,” David Brock, director of curatorial affairs at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, said in a phone interview. ” , “That’s where he played a really important role.”
John Edward Warnock was born on October 6, 1940, in Holladay, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City. His father, Clarence, was a lawyer; His mother, Dorothy (Van Dyke) Warnock, was a homemaker.
John was an average high school student who managed to make a mistake in algebra in the ninth grade. Nevertheless, he studied mathematics at the University of Utah, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1961 and a master’s degree in the same subject in 1964.
He didn’t initially plan to go into technology. But a summer job during graduate school recaping tires prompted him to apply to IBM, which was recruiting mathematicians.
He returned to Utah to pursue a doctorate in mathematics, but after a few years he turned to electrical engineering, which at the time also included computer science. The university had recently received substantial funding and resources from the Department of Defense for work on computer graphics, an area that had attracted his interest.
He was particularly impressed with the question of how to represent a three-dimensional image in two dimensions. the result was Warnock’s algorithmA major step forward in computer graphics and the basis for some of his later work at Adobe.
He married Marva Mullins in 1965. He is alive, as is his daughter Alyssa; their sons, Christopher and Jeffrey; and four grandchildren.
Dr. Warnock earned his doctorate in 1969 and then moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to work for a company founded by two of his mentors in Utah, David C. Evans and Ivan Sutherland. When they asked him to relocate to the company’s Salt Lake City office, he decided to stay in California and went to work for Xerox, whose Palo Alto Research Center was pioneering the first personal computer at the time.
There he met Dr. Geschke and the two became fast friends. Dr. Warnock spent years working on how to use a printer to produce images from a computer screen, a simple issue that had puzzled computer scientists for years. (Dr. Geschke died in 2021).
But when he presented his solution, Interpress, to his bosses, they had no interest in releasing it to the public. He and Dr. Geschke, who worked on the project, were disappointed.
“I went into his office, and I said, ‘We can live in the world’s greatest sandbox for the rest of our lives, or we can do something about it,'” Dr. Warnock said in a 2018 interview with the Computer History Museum. Said in an interview.
They both quit and in late 1982 they founded Adobe Systems, which was named after a creek near Dr. Warnock’s home. It has a market capitalization of $235 billion in 2023, making it one of the largest information-technology companies in the world.
In 2009, President Barack Obama presented both Dr. Warnock and Dr. Geschke with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.
Dr. Warnock and Dr. Geschke, who ran the company in common, were a rare exception among Silicon Valley’s big egos and eccentric billionaires: Academic and educational, they built an aggressively competitive company, while consistently making lists of the best places ranked high in Work.
Despite its size, Adobe was often cast as David versus the much larger Goliaths, mostly Microsoft – which, unlike Apple, repeatedly rejected Dr. Warnock’s urgings to cooperate and instead started its own Tried to beat Adobe with protocols and programs. None of them worked.
Dr. Warnock, who had 20 patents to his name, stepped down as chief executive in 2001 but remains on Adobe’s board of directors.
In a 2010 interview with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, he said, “It’s not easy being the CEO of a billion-plus company.” “The thing I really enjoy is the invention process.” , I enjoy figuring out how to do things that other people don’t know how to do.