Farewell to Charles Geschke, father of Adobe and PDF

After 2020 that took away some of the big names in technology, 2021 also gives us bad news. In fact, a few hours ago the announcement of the death of Charles Geschke, founder of Adobe and creator of the PDF format . Among the big names of the technologically prosperous Silicon Valley, even if less known than others, the entrepreneur left us at 81 years old.

Charles Geschke: goodbye to the founder of Adobe and PDF

The news of Geschke's death is a few hours ago, although his death dates back to April 16. Co-founder of Adobe along with John Warnock, the man will remain among the most important names in technological innovation, having revolutionized the communication of data between people. The PDF format is the basis of Wysiwyg , “What you see is what you get” , a fundamental concept of computer science for which what the user sees on the screen is what he will get with the graphic processing.

It's a big loss to the entire Adobe community and tech industry, for which Charles has been a guide and a hero for decades.

Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe

Geschke founded Adobe Systems in Warnock's garage in 1982 , as the computer science cliché dictates. The company name comes from the Adobe River that flowed right behind its partner's house. The two developed PostScript, a page description language that allowed users to “compose” documents on the screen and see the exact print result as it was done. PostScript is considered the ancestor of the more famous PDF format , the authorship of which is Adobe Systems and largely by Geschke, the main contributor to the developments. Although PDF is not a programming language like PostScript, one is considered as the natural evolution of the other, as the .pdf format is nothing more than an already interpreted PostScript file.

The logo of Adobe, the famous company founded by Geschke and Warnock.
The logo of Adobe, the famous company founded by Geschke and Warnock.

Geschke became CEO of the company in 1986 and remained until 1994. The man contributed to the development of many technologies and applications, such as Photoshop, Illustrator and PageMaker , as well as the famous Acrobat Reader for reading and printing PDF documents. The enormous fame he gained between the 1980s and 1990s cost him a kidnapping, which he fortunately survived without any serious repercussions. In 1992, in the midst of Adobe Systems' business, Geschke was approached by two gunmen in the company parking lot. The kidnappers asked for a ransom of $ 650,000, but they did not collect as the FBI managed to locate the two and be led by the hostage, freeing him.

After Russel Kirsch , Larry Tesler and John Conway , we find ourselves again greeting one of the historical figures of computer science. Among the most famous awards received by Geschke are the IEEE Computer Enterpreneur Award , the National Medal of Technology and Innovation presented to him by President Barack Obama and the Marconi Award.

Adobe and the PDF format

PDF files are the basis for communication and the exchange of telematic information . The format is considered the world's most important and global standard for sharing data. PDF supports almost all fonts, layouts and images, and files can now be read by any device and interpreted by any printer. The fact that all of this is taken for granted and considered standard underlines how revolutionary Geschke's invention was.

Charles Geschke with Steve Jobs. Apple computers were the first to use PostScript. Source: Fotografia.it
Charles Geschke with Steve Jobs. Apple computers were the first to use PostScript. Source: Fotografia.it

Almost all file formats can be converted to PDF, making it easier to share between different devices. The most important advantage of this format is clearly the almost universal portability and ease of implementation, but it is not the only one. The PDF offers the possibility to secure the content of the file , for example by adding a level of access control by password. The .pdf files also support the digital signature to validate documents, which is now widely used. In fact, e-signing has now almost completely replaced the procedure for printing and signing documents, making it more secure than the paper signature.

The article Farewell to Charles Geschke, father of Adobe and PDF comes from Tech CuE | Close-up Engineering .