Digital imaging for everyone
This first release was certainly a success, despite the usual slew of bugs. Like the Apple of today, Adobe's key marketing decision was to present Photoshop as a mass-market, fairly simple tool for anyone to use - rather than most graphics software of the time, which was aimed at specialists.
With Photoshop, you could be achieving the same things on your home desktop Mac that were previously only possible with thousands of dollars of advanced equipmentâ€¦ at least, that was the implicit promise. There was also the matter of pricing. Letraset's ColorStudio, which had launched shortly before, cost $1,995; Photoshop was less than $1,000.
With development of version 2.0 now underway, Adobe began to expand the coding staff. Mark Hamburg was taken on to add Bézier paths, while other new features included the Pen tool, Duotones, import and rasterisation of Illustrator files, plus, crucially, support for CMYK colour. This was another canny move on Adobe's part, as it opened up the Photoshop market to print professionals for the first time. The program's first Product Manager, Steven Guttman, started giving code names to beta versions, a practice which survives to this day. 'Fast Eddy' - version 2 - was launched the following year.
Until now Photoshop was still a Mac-only application, but its success warranted a version for the burgeoning Windows graphics market. Porting it was not a trivial task: a whole new team, headed by Bryan Lamkin, was brought in for the PC. Oddly, although there were other significant new features such as 16-bit file support, this iteration was shipped as version 2.5.
Like that difficult third album which can make or break a band, version 3 had to really deliver if it was to corner the market. Fortunately, the team had a whopper of an ace up their sleeve: layers.
By general consensus, the addition of layers has been the single most important aspect of Photoshop development, and probably the feature which finally persuaded many artists to try it. Yet the concept of layers wasn't unique to Photoshop. HSC - later to become MetaCreations - was concurrently developing Live Picture, an image-editing app including just such a facility. While an excellent program in its own right, Live Picture was vastly overpriced on its launch, leaving Photoshop 3.0 for both Mac and Windows to clean up.
Nothing in later versions quite matched the layers feature for its impact, but there have nonetheless been significant changes. Version 5 introduced colour management and the History palette, with its extra 'nonlinear history' behaviour, which certainly opened up whole new creative possibilities. A major update, version 5.5, bundled Adobe's package ImageReady in an entirely new iteration, giving Photoshop excellent Web-specific features. Layer styles and improved text handling popped up in version 6, and the Healing brush in version 7.
Today and tomorrow
Surprisingly given the age and market leading position of the application, Adobe continues to come up with new features for Photoshop. With Photoshop now part of the rebranded and remarketed Creative Suite 2, Adobe appears to be currently emphasising interoperability through the likes of Bridge.
But the program can't and won't stand still. For one thing, it faces much greater competition from a host of rivals, many of which claim to offer Photoshop's power without the price. Lower-cost apps aimed at the amateur or home enthusiast, such as Paint Shop Pro on Windows, have had many years to learn from Photoshop. Adobe's solution was to join them, launching the budget priced and feature-reduced but still immensely powerful Photoshop Elements - which itself has now reached version 4.
And the future? Unsurprisingly, Adobe isn't telling. Photoshop is the jewel in its crown and its development is closely guarded. But there have been hints. Bryan Lamkin, now Senior Vice President of Digital Imaging and Digital Video, speculated earlier this year on a true 64-bit version of the application, and perhaps support for Apple's CoreImage technology, which would bring enormous speed improvements. Rumours that Illustrator will merge with Photoshop have also abounded for years.
Whatever happens, it's likely that Thomas Knoll will be involved in some way. Although not directly concerned with Photoshop these days, he still keeps his hand in, recently developing the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in and posting occasionally to the Adobe forums.
His brother still works at ILM too: appropriately enough, he was Visual Effects Supervisor on all three of the new Star Wars films. Without the original Star Wars, there would have been no Photoshop; and with no Photoshop, your job, this magazine and the entire graphics design industry would be very different from how they are today.