Celebrating 25 years of Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop Dream On

Photoshop forever changed the world of design and animation, and is an invaluable tool for any designer. In honour of Adobe Photoshop’s 25th birthday last week we take a brief look at the history of this editing software.

25-year history of Adobe Photoshop

In 1987 Thomas Knoll, a PhD student at the University of Michigan, wrote a program on his Macintosh Plus that would display greyscale images on a monochrome display. It was called Display, and caught the attention of his brother John Knoll, who recommended that he turn it into a fully fledged image-editing program.

Thomas took a six-month break from his studies to perfect the program with the help of his brother. They renamed the product ImagePro, but found that the name was already taken, so then called it Photoshop and worked out a deal with a scanner manufacturer to distribute copies of the program along with a slide scanner. Approximately 200 copies of Photoshop were distributed like this.

In 1988 John travelled to Silicon Valley to give a demonstration of the program to Apple engineers and Russell Brown, today senior creative director at Adobe. Adobe decided to purchase a distribution licence for Photoshop in September 1988. Photoshop 1.0 was released on 19 February 1990 for exclusive use by Macintosh.

Photoshop’s naming scheme was initially based on version numbers, but changed in 2004 with introduction of the Creative Suit branding, after which each version was branded with the letters ’CS’ and a number. In 2013 Photoshop’s licensing scheme was changed to ‘software as a service’ when it introduced Creative Cloud, where users get access to a collection of software. Subsequent Photoshop versions now feature CC instead of CS.

After 25 years on the market the latest version of this image-editing tool to be released, in June 2014, was Photoshop CC 2014 (version 15.0). A more condensed version for touchscreen devices, called Photoshop Touch, hit the market not too long ago.

Three fast facts about Adobe Photoshop

  • The image that Thomas and and John Knoll used to demonstrate Photoshop for the first time in 1988 was called Jennifer in Paradise, a picture of a woman sitting on a beach in Bora-Bora. The woman is in fact Jennifer Walters, John Knoll’s girlfriend at the time, and she is now his wife. They met while working at Lucasfilm’s special effects company, Industrial Light & Magic. The photo was snapped while taking a break from working 70-hour weeks on the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Jennifer in Paradise Photoshop

  • The Abyss (directed and written by James Cameron) was the first motion picture film that made use of Photoshop in post-production.

The Abyss Photoshop

  • Adobe prefers people to use the term ‘photoshopping’ instead of ‘Photoshop’ as a verb, to prevent the trademark from becoming too generalized and in order to maintain validity. Trademarks need to retain proper nouns, although most people still use the word as to ‘photoshop’.

To celebrate 25 years since its first release Adobe released an advertisement called Dream On, showing all of the magical things that can be achieved using Photoshop. The first airing was during the 2015 Oscar ceremony. You can view it here.