Apr 16, 2023
The Mogollon culture was an indigenous culture in the Western United States and Mexico that ranged from New Mexico and Arizona to Sonora, Mexico and out to Texas. They flourished from around 200 CE until the Spanish showed up and claimed their lands. The cultures that pre-existed them date back thousands more years, although archaeology has yet to pinpoint exactly how those evolved. Like many early cultures, they farmed and foraged. As they farmed more, their homes become more permanent and around 800 CE they began to create more durable homes that helped protect them from wild swings in the climate. We call those homes adobes today and the people who lived in those peublos and irrigated water, often moving higher into mountains, we call the Peubloans - or Pueblo Peoples.
Adobe homes are similar to those found in ancient cultures in what we call Turkey today. It’s an independent evolution.
Adobe Creek was once called Arroyo de las Yeguas by the monks from Mission Santa Clara and then renamed to San Antonio Creek by a soldier Juan Prado Mesa when the land around it was given to him by the governor of Alto California at the time, Juan Bautista Alvarado. That’s the same Alvarado as the street if you live in the area. The creek runs for over 14 miles north from the Black Mountain and through Palo Alto, California. The ranchers built their adobes close to the creeks. American settlers led the Bear Flag Revolt in 1846, and took over the garrison of Sonoma, establishing the California Republic - which covered much of the lands of the Peubloans. There were only 33 of them at first, but after John Fremont (yes, he of whom that street is named after as well) encouraged the Americans, they raised an army of over 100 men and Fremont helped them march on Sutter’s fort, now with the flag of the United States, thanks to Joseph Revere of the US Navy (yes, another street in San Francisco bears his name).
James Polk had pushed to expand the United States. Manfiest Destiny. Remember The Alamo. Etc. The fort at Monterey fell, the army marched south. Admiral Sloat got involved. They named a street after him. General Castro surrendered - he got a district named after him. Commodore Stockton announced the US had taken all of Calfironia soon after that. Manifest destiny was nearly complete. He’s now basically the patron saint of a city, even if few there know who he was. The forts along the El Camino Real that linked the 21 Spanish Missions, a 600-mile road once walked by their proverbial father, Junípero Serra following the Portolá expedition of 1769, fell. Stockton took each, moving into Los Angeles, then San Diego. Practically all of Alto California fell with few shots. This was nothing like the battles for the independence of Texas, like when Santa Anna reclaimed the Alamo Mission.
Meanwhile, the waters of Adobe Creek continued to flow. The creek was renamed in the 1850s after Mesa built an adobe on the site. Adobe Creek it was. Over the next 100 years, the area evolved into a paradise with groves of trees and then groves of technology companies. The story of one begins a little beyond the borders of California.
Utah was initialy explored by Francisco Vázquez de Coronado in 1540 and settled by Europeans in search of furs and others who colonized the desert, including those who established the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormons - who settled there in 1847, just after the Bear Flag Revolt. The United States officially settled for the territory in 1848 and Utah became a territory and after a number of map changes wher ethe territory got smaller, was finally made a state in 1896. The University of Utah had been founded all the way back in 1850, though - and re-established in the 1860s.
100 years later, the University of Utah was a hotbed of engineers who pioneered a number of graphical advancements in computing. John Warnock went to grad school there and then went on to co-found Adobe and help bring us PostScript. Historically, PS, or Postscript was a message to be placed at the end of a letter, following the signature of the author. The PostScript language was a language to describe a page of text computationally. It was created by Adobe when Warnock, Doug Brotz, Charles Geschke, Bill Paxton (who worked on the Mother of All Demos with Doug Englebart during the development of Online System, or NLS in the late 70s and then at Xerox PARC), and Ed Taft.
Warnock invented the Warnock algorithm while working on his PhD
and went to work at Evans & Sutherland with Ivan Sutherland who
effectively created the field of computer graphics. Geschke got his
PhD at Carnegie Melon in the early 1970s and then went of to Xerox
PARC. They worked with Paxton at PARC and before long, these PhDs
and mathematicians had worked out the algorithms and then the
languages to display images on computers while working on
InterPress graphics at Xerox and Gerschke left Xerox and started
Adobe. Warnock joined them and they went to market with Interpress
as PostScript, which became a foundation for the Apple LaswerWriter
to print graphics. Not only that, PostScript could be used to
define typefaces programmatically and later to display any old
Those technologies became the foundation for the desktop publishing industry. Apple released the 1984 Mac and other vendors brought in PostScript to describe graphics in their proprietary fashion and by 1991 they released PostScript Level 2 and then PostScript 3 in 1997. Other vendors made their own or furthered standards in their own ways and Adobe could have faded off into the history books of computing. But Adobe didn’t create one product, they created an industry and the company they created to support that young industry created more products in that mission.
Steve Jobs tried to buy Adobe before that first Mac as released, for $5,000,000. But Warnock and Geschke had a vision for an industry in mind. They had a lot of ideas but development was fairly capital intensive, as were go to market strategies. So they went public on the NASDAQ in 1986. They expanded their PostScript distribution and sold it to companies like Texas Instruments for their laser printer, and other companies who made IBM-compatible companies. They got up to $16 million in sales that year.
Warnock’s wife was a graphic designer. This is where we see a diversity of ideas help us think about more than math. He saw how she worked and could see a world where Ivan Sutherland’s Sketchpad was much more given how far CPUs had come since the TX-0 days at MIT. So Adobe built and released Illustrator in 1987. By 1988 they broke even on sales and it raked in $19 million in revenue. Sales were strong in the universities but PostScript was still the hot product, selling to printer companies, typesetters, and other places were Adobe signed license agreements.
At this point, we see where the math, cartesian coordinates, drawn by geometric algorithms put pixels where they should be. But while this was far more efficient than just drawing a dot in a coordinate for larger images, drawing a dot in a pixel location was still the easier technology to understand.
They created Adobe Screenline in 1989 and Collectors Edition to create patterns. They listened to graphic designers and built what they heard humans wanted.
Nearly every graphic designer raves about Adobe Photoshop. That’s because Photoshop is the best selling graphics editorial tool that has matured far beyond most other traditional solutions and now has thousands of features that allow users to manipulate images in practically any way they want.
Adobe Illustrator was created in 1987 and quickly became the de facto standard in vector-based graphics. Photoshop began life in 1987 as well, when Thomas and John Knoll, wanted to build a simpler tool to create graphics on a computer. Rather than vector graphics they created a raster graphical editor.
They made a deal with Barneyscan, a well-known scanner company that managed to distribute over two hundred copies of Photoshop with their scanners and Photoshop became a hit as it was the first editing software people heard about. Vector images are typically generated with Cartesian coordinates based on geometric formulas and so scale out more easily. Raster images are comprised of a grid of dots, or pixels, and can be more realistic.
Great products are rewarded with competitions. CorelDRAW was created in 1989 when Michael Bouillon and Pat Beirne built a tool to create vector illustrations. The sales got slim after other competitors entered the market and the Knoll brothers got in touch with Adobe and licensed the product through them. The software was then launched as Adobe Photoshop 1 in 1990. They released Photoshop 2 in 1991. By now they had support for paths, and given that Adobe also made Illustrator, EPS and CMYK rasterization, still a feature in Photoshop.
They launched Adobe Photoshop 2.5 in 1993, the first version that could be installed on Windows. This version came with a toolbar for filters and 16-bit channel support. Photoshop 3 came in 1994 and Thomas Knoll created what was probably one of the most important features added, and one that’s become a standard in graphical applications since, layers. Now a designer could create a few layers that each had their own elements and hide layers or make layers more transparent. These could separate the subject from the background and led to entire new capabilities, like an almost faux 3 dimensional appearance of graphics..
Then version four in 1996 and this was one of the more widely distributed versions and very stable. They added automation and this was later considered part of becoming a platform - open up a scripting language or subset of a language so others built tools that integrated with or sat on top of those of a product, thus locking people into using products once they automated tasks to increase human efficiency.
Adobe Photoshop 5.0 added editable type, or rasterized text. Keep in mind that Adobe owned technology like PostScript and so could bring technology from Illustrator to Photoshop or vice versa, and integrate with other products - like export to PDF by then. They also added a number of undo options, a magnetic lasso, improved color management and it was now a great tool for more advanced designers. Then in 5.5 they added a save for web feature in a sign of the times. They could created vector shapes and continued to improve the user interface.
Adobe 5 was also a big jump in complexity. Layers were easy enough to understand, but Photoshop was meant to be a subset of Illustrator features and had become far more than that. So in 2001 they released Photoshop Elements. By now they had a large portfolio of products and Elements was meant to appeal to the original customer base - the ones who were beginners and maybe not professional designers. By now, some people spent 40 or more hours a day in tools like Photoshop and Illustrator.
Adobe had released PostScript, Illustrator, and Photoshop. But they have one of the most substantial portfolios of products of any company. They also released Premiere in 1991 to get into video editing. They acquired Aldus Corporation to get into more publishing workflows with PageMaker. They used that acquisition to get into motion graphics with After Effects. They acquired dozens of companies and released their products as well.
Adobe also released the PDF format do describe full pages of information (or files that spread across multiple pages) in 1993 and Adobe Acrobat to use those. Acrobat became the de facto standard for page distribution so people didn’t have to download fonts to render pages properly. They dabbled in audio editing when they acquired Cool Edit Pro from Syntrillium Software and so now sell Adobe Audition.
Adobe’s biggest acquisition was Macromedia in 2005. Here, they added a dozen new products to the portfolio, which included Flash, Fireworks, WYSYWIG web editor Dreamweaver, ColdFusion, Flex, and Breeze, which is now called Adobe Connect. By now, they’d also created what we call Creative Suite, which are packages of applications that could be used for given tasks. Creative Suite also signaled a transition into a software as a service, or SaaS mindset. Now customers could pay a monthly fee for a user license rather than buy large software packages each time a new version was released.
Adobe had always been a company who made products to create graphics. They expanded into online marketing and web analytics when they bought Omniture in 2009 for $1.8 billion. These products are now normalized into the naming convention used for the rest as Adobe Marketing Cloud. Flash fell by the wayside and so the next wave of acquisitions were for more mobile-oriented products. This began with Day Software and then Nitobi in 2011. And they furthered their Marketing Cloud support with an acquisition of one of the larger competitors when they acquired Marketo in 2018 and acquiring Workfront in 2020.
Given how many people started working from home, they also extended their offerings into pure-cloud video tooling with an acquisition of Frame.io in 2021. And here we see a company started by a bunch of true computer sciencists from academia in the early days of the personal computer that has become far more. They could have been rolled into Apple but had a vision of a creative suite of products that could be used to make the world a prettier place. Creative Suite then Creative Cloud shows a move of the same tools into a more online delivery model. Other companies come along to do similar tasks, like infinite digital whiteboard Miro - so they have to innovate to stay marketable. They have to continue to increase sales so they expand into other markets like the most adjacent Marketing Cloud.
At 22,500+ employees and with well over $12 billion in revenues, they have a lot of families dependent on maintaining that growth rate. And so the company becomes more than the culmination of their software. They become more than graphic design, web design, video editing, animation, and visual effects. Because in software, if revenues don’t grow at a rate greater than 10 percent per year, the company simply isn’t outgrowing the size of the market and likely won’t be able to justify stock prices at an inflated earnings to price ratio that shows explosive growth. And yet once a company saturates sales in a given market they have shareholders to justify their existence to. Adobe has survived many an economic downturn and boom time with smart, measured growth and is likely to continue doing so for a long time to come.