each piece she's torn from the whole, she gathers up to organize in a way that makes sense
Thursday, February 19, 2015
25 Years of Photoshop
Adobe Photoshop officially shipped 25 years ago today, on February 19, 1990, ushering in the concept that anyone could edit, improve, or totally change photographs on a computer.
Today, we're all used to manipulating photos, everything from simple cropping to the ubiquitous filters in software like Instagram to the ever-popular "auto enhance" feature in the photo tools that come on our PCs and smartphones. But in 1990, the idea that an individual would have such power on their personal computer was revolutionary.
Recall that back then, most photos were taken with traditional film cameras. (Digital cameras had been invented in the 1970s, but the first popular consumer digital camera, the QuickTake from Apple and Kodak, didn't come out until 1994), so images had to be scanned into computers that typically didn't have nearly the memory or storage of today's machines. There were digital photo-editing tools on higher-end machines, such as Scitex, and earlier graphics or drawing programs such as Adobe Illustrator for the Macintosh and Corel Draw for early versions of Windows. But as the graphics, memory, and storage capabilities of personal computers improved, the concept of editing photos on a personal computer became a possibility.
Photoshop began life in 1987, when Thomas Knoll, a PhD student at the University of Michigan started writing a program on his Macintosh Plus that displayed grayscale images on a black-white bitmap monitor. This was meant as a diversion from his thesis on computer vision, and he called the program Display. He showed it to his brother John, who worked at Industrial Light & Magic using computers to create movie special effects. John asked him to help program a computer that would process digital image files, and then purchased a Macintosh II with a color display so they could make software that worked with color.
Thomas Knoll worked on adapting the original code to work in color, and added the ability to read and write various formats, while John Knoll created the image-processing routines that would later become filter plug-ins. Thomas also developed such features as Levels for adjusting tonality; Color Balance, Hue, and Saturation for adjusting color and painting capabilities. Eventually, they decided to name their program PhotoShop (note the capital S) and licensed a version of it to Barneyscan, which included it with some Barneyscan cameras. Stories suggest only about 200 copies were sold this way.
John Knoll demonstrated the product to Apple and Adobe, and in September 1988, Adobe agreed to license and distribute the program. (Adobe wasn't to formally buy the products for several years.) The brothers then worked on creating the final product, which was shipped for the Macintosh 25 years ago.
I remember using it before the release, and writing a First Look comparing it and Letraset's Color Studio, a higher-end image-editing tool. At the time, I praised Photoshop for being relatively easy to learn and use, and for having lots of great features, such as filters to Sharpen, Sharpen Edges, Blur, Add Noise, and Diffuse. I noted that Color Studio had even more features, including a powerful mask capability, but was harder to use. Note that at the time Photoshop cost $895 (which didn't seem out of line), and I described it as a "fairly big program" because it took up about 2 megabytes of memory. My, how times have changed.
Adobe came out with its first Windows version of Photoshop in 1993. In PC Magazine's First Look, Luisa Simone described it as "an indispensable tool for professional image-makers" noting that while other programs that had come on the market before then were easier and less expensive, Photoshop "redefines the high end of the image editing market."
Over the years, Photoshop has continued to add features, such as taking advantage of 64-bit, multi-core, and GPU computing and is now primarily offered through Adobe's Creative Crowd as Photoshop CC for $9.99 per month (along with the Photoshop Lightroom tool designed for managing the photo process), or in a consumer version known as Photoshop Elements.
Along the way, Photoshop's early features have now become commonplace, and most of us take photo editing pretty much for granted. My original concern, that photographs would be manipulated in such a way that we couldn't tell what was real and what was fake, is now simply a fact of life. Just about everyone now edits, enhances, and improves their photos – just look at your Facebook feed. It's pretty impressive how far we've come.