By Scott Hamilton

Senior Expert Emerging Technologies

Charles “Chuck” Geschke, developer of the portable document format (PDF) died in his home on Fridat April 16, 2021, after a long battle with melanoma at the age of 81. “This is a huge loss for the entire Adobe community and the technology industry, for whom he has been a guide and hero for decades,” Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen wrote in an email to the company’s employees.

“As co-founders of Adobe, Chuck and John Warnock developed groundbreaking software that has revolutionized how people create and communicate,” Narayen said. “Their first product was Adobe PostScript, an innovative technology that provided a radical new way to print text and images on paper and sparked the desktop publishing revolution. Chuck instilled a relentless drive for innovation in the company, resulting in some of the most transformative software inventions, including the ubiquitous PDF, Acrobat, Illustrator, Premiere Pro and Photoshop.”

Everyone reading this article is impacted by Greschke’s invention, most newspapers, magazines and books today are printed based on the standards developed by Greschke and Dr. John Warnock in 1982 as part of Adobe Inc’s first product Adobe Postscript. The computer language in postscript was adopted as the international standard for document sharing and printing now referred to as the portable document format (PDF). As a result Adobe is no longer the only software company to have a PDF creator, viewer and editor available, though they still have the most stable and most popular PDF toolsets.

PDF was originally developed as an internal tool for document sharing within Adobe because all the employees of Adobe were using different computers with different operating systems and word processing systems. In the early days of computers there were dozens of different operating systems and possibly hundreds of document storage formats making it nearly impossible to share documents with other people. Especially documents containing images and illustrations. Before the invention of Postscript most documents were shared as plain text files and illustrations, charts, graphs and photos were shared as hard copy.

It was quickly discovered by companies like Xerox and adopted as a standard for printable files, most printers on the market today actually use the PDF format for receiving and processing documents for printing, including professional level press printers. This single product set Adobe up as a multi-billion dollar industry changing corporation.

In the years following development teams working und Geschke and Warnock went on to develop the world famous Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and PageMaker responsible for changing the print industry from a mechanical printing system to fully digital in just a few short years. You might say that we experienced the death of a legend in digital publishing.

Until next week stay safe and learn something new

Scott Hamilton is a Senior Expert in Emerging Technologies at ATOS and can be reached with questions and comments via email to or through his website at

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