Photoshop through the Ages: How Photoshop Began and Where it Stands in the Market Today

Adobe’s popular image editing software, known as Photoshop, or Adobe Photoshop has undergone major transformations since its inception in 1987. Today, it leads the image manipulation and commercial bitmap markets and is also commonly described as the “industry standard for graphics professionals,” according to CNN.com. Written in the C++ language, Photoshop began as a tool for professionals and print work, but has also become widely used among amateurs and online as well.

The Beginning

Photoshop was first developed in early 1987 when the University of Michigan Ph.D. candidate Thomas Knoll started a program on his early Macintosh Plus computer that would show grayscale images on his black and white screen.

He called this rudimentary program ‘Display,” and showed it to his brother, Industrial Light and Magic employee John Knoll, who suggested that Thomas develop it into image editing software. In 1988, Thomas and John worked on the program, now called Photoshop, and worked out an arrangement with the scanner company, Barneyscan, to distribute the program along with their scanners, says Derrick Story in his article, ‘From Darkroom to Desktop.’

While Barneyscan was distributing Photoshop under the program name Barneyscan XP, John showed the program to software technicians at Apple computer and the art director at Adobe, and both companies loved the presentation. Adobe purchased the rights to distribute Photoshop in late 1988.

Photoshop Today

The newest Photoshop included new support for the Intel-based Macintosh platforms, which were released in 2006, and improved their Windows support to include Windows Vista. Adobe also changed the logo. The iconic feather was now replaced by an icon of white letters on a blue square, an image that correlates with the periodic table of elements themed icons.

They introduced new features to the Camera RAW plug-in and also altered the channel mixer, brightness and contrast, print dialog, curves, vanishing point and black and white conversions. Brand new components include automatic aligning and blending, as well as smart filters that can be applied without destruction.

Adobe improved cloning tools as well as the healing tools and altered the program so that it launches significantly faster. Following the release of CS3, Adobe introduced Photoshop CS3 Extended that added capabilities for scientific images, three-dimensional imagery, along with professional film and video.

Photoshop may be the standard image editor in the industry, but it has also gained popularity among amateurs, and its high market prices have led to an incredibly high rate of piracy among its products. Along with this problem of illegal program use, other companies began releasing graphics editing programs at a lower price to accommodate these amateur editors.

To combat both the piracy and the competitors, Adobe released Photoshop Elements, a version of Photoshop that has many of the professional features removed, and is aimed directly at the general consumers.

Since version 1.0 in 1990, Photoshop has evolved through 10 versions to become the industry leader in image editing. Adobe has adapted to the changing market by adding and improving more tools, security features and plug-ins to their new programs, and they have even combated competitors and illegal use of their programs by introducing a commercial version of their high-end products.

Photoshop has become so popular that its name has been used as a verb to refer to image editing, as in ‘photoshopping’ an image. Adobe highly discourages this, in an attempt to preserve trademark, but it has become a widely used and accepted verb. Photoshop is an excellent example of a program that has successfully met consumer and professional needs, along with providing success and prestige for Adobe.

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