Adobe co-founder Charles “Chuck” Geschke passed away Friday at the age of 81, Adobe has confirmed. During his career, Geschke oversaw Adobe’s operations as it released game-changing innovations include Photoshop, along with ubiquitous file formats such as PDF.
Adobe’s history has long been entwined with Apple — including a $2.5 million investment from Apple in 1985 that led to the creation of a PostScript controller for the Apple LaserWriter.
“I thought the world of Chuck,” Del Yocam, Apple’s first Chief Operator and a member of Adobe’s board of directors from 1981 through 2009, told Cult of Mac. “Chuck was the operating side of the company and [Adobe co-founder John Warnock] was the strategic side of the company. He was an open, straightforward, ‘salt of the earth’ engineer who never let Adobe’s success go to his head. He was the necessary balance to John’s strategic genius.”
Geschke met Warnock at Xerox PARC, the legendary Silicon Valley research center that also helped develop the GUI. Geschke and Warnock left Xerox to found Adobe in 1982, initially creating the Adobe PostScript programming language. PostScript helped to make desktop publishing possible. In 1985, Apple invested in the company in order to use PostScript for Apple’s revolutionary LaserWriter printer.
Adobe and Apple were very, very close
While many younger Apple-watchers may think of Apple and Adobe as rivals due to Steve Jobs’ famous “open letter” to the company, the reality is that for much of their histories the two companies have been interlinked. Although the Macintosh was impressive, it took desktop publishing for it to begin to become a sales powerhouse. The LaserWriter, which shipped with PostScript, turbocharged desktop publishing. And made PostScript the language of choice for graphical output for printing applications in the process.
Geschke served as COO of Adobe from 1986 through 1994. He was also president from 1989 through 2000, when he retired. He remained part of Adobe’s board. One of the most headline-grabbing incidents of his career happened in 1992, when Geschke was kidnapped at gunpoint and held for ransom for four days. The incident sent shockwaves through Silicon Valley, and resulted in many tech companies — including Apple — bolstering the security for its top-tier executives.
In an email to employees, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen wrote that it was a “huge loss for the entire Adobe community and the technology industry” at large. It’s very difficult to disagree with that assessment.
What are your memories of Chuck Geschke? Were you one of the many people who relied (or still relies) on Adobe software? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.