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Discover what made the future: Photoshop

Before Photoshop it used to cost $300 an hour to have photos touched up.

Photoshop is now the benchmark in photo editing and digital art creation and has even taken on a life of its own as a verb. ‘Just photoshop it’ has become commonly used to describe making almost anything look better or different even when completely unrelated to using the actual software – a behaviour Adobe has been fighting an uphill battle to curb, we don’t think they are going to win this one.

Photoshop was initially developed in 1987 by Thomas Knoll, a PhD student at the time, under the name ‘Display’. His brother John was intrigued by the program but insisted that the program needed to become a full suite photo editing program. In 1988 they worked together to make it functional and named it ImagePro, the name was already taken and so Photoshop was born. The first edition displayed greyscale images on a monochrome display.

They partnered with Barneyscan to distribute the first couple of hundred versions of Photoshop alongside the slide scanner so people could can and then try the program. During this time John travelled to a much humbler Silicon Valley to pitch to Apple and Adobe. Both meetings were said to have gone well but Adobe came out on top and purchased the license to distribute shortly after.

The initial naming convention for the versions was a bit more exciting, though a bit untenable over a long time, which is why Adobe probably resorted to numbers. Version 0.07 was named ‘Bond’ and 0.87, ’Seurat’ (French painter). Unofficially Adobe versions still get names assigned. Photoshop 1.0 was released February 1990, exclusively for Mac and excluding the colour editing feature, this was improved with later versions and became the standard for digital colour editing not long after. Creative Suite was introduced in October 2003 with the eighth version becoming Photoshop CS and the ninth, Photoshop CS2.

Adobe saw the obvious value in Cloud technology which led to the introduction of Creative Cloud (CC) where the licenses are now rented out as a service (SaaS).

The source code for Photoshop 1.0.1 was donated to the Computer History Museum on February 2013.

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