History Lesson: Photoshop

Take a journey through the years with Adobe Photoshop.

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What is Adobe Photoshop?

Adobe Photoshop is a raster graphics editor piece of software that can be used to create and edit images and save the images in file formats such as JPEG, PNG or GIF.

Humble beginnings

What would be later know as Adobe Photoshop was the brainchild of two brothers Thomas and John Knoll.

Thomas started development of his program which was first known as Display in 1987, and soon after John and the brothers collaborated together to further improve the program. In 1988 Thomas wanted to rename the program to ImagePro but that name was already taken so he chose the name Photoshop.


The brothers teamed up with a scanner manufacturer called Barneyscan to bundle copies of Photoshop with their slide scanner, a few hundred copies of Photoshop were sold this way. During the 2 years of the deal John Knoll went to see program engineers and Apple and the Art Director at Adobe, both meetings were a success. Adobe purchased the license to distribute in 1988 and in February 1990 Photoshop 1.0 was released exclusively on the Macintosh.

In the 1990’s digital retouching on high-end machines was more specialist than it is today and it would cost around $300 per hour. Photoshop 1.0 for the Macintosh was released with a price tag of around $895. It wouldn’t be until 1993 that Photoshop 1.0 would be released on Microsoft Windows, which would allow them to reach a wider audience.


Photoshop enjoyed success in the professional market but it wasn’t yet a household name due to the steep learning curve and the expensive price tag. That was until the around 2005 when the wide spread adoption of broadband Internet, combined with Peer-to-Peer software such as Limewire, Kazaa & Bearshare that lead to rise in pirated software. In 2009 it was estimated that more than 40 percent of PC software was from a pirated source. With the release of Adobe Creative Suite they introduced a ‘Phone Home’ routine, every time one of the programs were opened, it ‘phones home’ with the serial number. If the serial number is already in use or a fake, then the user will be asked to input a correct serial number or the next time the program is open, it will open in a trail mode.

Becoming a verb

In the last decade it has becoming increasingly wide spread and acceptable to hear the phrase ‘that’s Photoshopped’ or ‘I Photoshopped that’. In 2008 Merriam-Webster added ‘Photoshop’ to their dictionary. The current definition of ‘Photoshop’ is to alter (a digital image) with Photoshop software or other image-editing software especially in a way that distorts reality (as for deliberately deceptive purpose).

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