Desktop revolutionary Charles Geschke passes away

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Desktop revolutionary, Adobe co-founder, and PDF developer, Charles "Chuck" Geschke, has passed away, aged 81, at his home in California, leaving a remarkable legacy as one of the few people who changed the face of print.

Revolutionary: Charles Geschke
Revolutionary: Charles Geschke

Geschke founded Adobe with John Warnock in 1982, just as the first iterations of the Apple Mac were appearing. Together Adobe and Apple, with the Aldus Pagemaker - which Adobe went on to buy -  totally transformed the print industry, and within a decade had wiped out the typesetting and electronic page make-up industries, and sent print as a whole into a new digital era.

Geschke and Warnock were working at the legendary Xerox lab at Palo Alto in California, when Xerox declined to pursue a page description language technology called Interpress, which the pair were pursuing. They promptly left, founded Adobe, and launched their first product, Postscript – which became the spark that fired the desktop publishing revolution that changed print.

It meant printers were no longer tied to proprietary systems, where fonts were only available from one particular typesetter manufacturer.

Although the early desktop typesetting systems were widely panned by the industry, Geschke knew what he was talking about, as both his father and grandfather had been letterpress photo engravers.

Today, Adobe is $20bn company with 22,000 employees around the world. It is one of the world’s biggest software companies. Its products are so ubiquitous that they have entered the lexicon - we all know what it means to have been photoshopped. With PDFs, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat and Photoshop, Adobe has become part of virtually every print business in the world. It is also credited with enabling the image and feature-rich world wide web.

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen said, "This is a huge loss for the entire Adobe community and the technology industry, for whom he has been a guide and hero for decades."

Geschke officially retired from day-to-day activities 20 years ago, but stayed on the board of Adobe. Geschke and Warnock both received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama in 2008, in one of his first acts as president.

Geschke and Warnock were both respected for having no airs and graces, despite their stunning contribution. One of the more bizarre episodes in Geschke’s life came in 1992 when he was kidnapped at gunpoint. The FBI managed to set him free a few days later when they caught the perpetrator with the $650,000 he had been paid.

Geshke leaves behind Nancy, his wife of more than 50 years, three children, seven grandchildren, and a remarkable legacy.

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