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The tech world is mourning the loss of Dr. John Warnock, the innovative genius who helped shape modern computing by co-founding Adobe Systems. He died at the age of 82, a news that was announced by Adobe this past Saturday. His wife, Marva Warnock, and three children survive him, and no details about the cause of his death have been disclosed.
Adobe’s Chair and CEO, Shantanu Narayen, expressed his deep sorrow over the loss, saying, “Our cherished co-founder Dr. John Warnock is no more, having left us at the age of 82. Recognized across the globe as a monumental inventor of our time, John’s contributions to the way we engage with text, visuals, and multimedia cannot be overstated.”
Alongside the late Dr. Charles Geschke, Warnock founded Adobe in 1982 and filled the role of CEO until 2000. He remained co-chairman with Geschke until 2017. His creative partnership with Geschke has been one for the ages, with the company’s first logo designed by Marva Warnock and the launch of Adobe Postscript in 1984.
But Adobe didn’t stop there. With the launch of Photoshop in 1987, and subsequent inventions like the PDF format and software tools such as Illustrator, Lightroom, Premiere Pro, and After Effects, Adobe played an integral part in the desktop publishing upheaval of the ’80s. These innovations continue to be pivotal for content creation in fields like web, film, TV, and audio editing.
What set Warnock apart from many CEOs was his expertise in technical areas. In his 1969 doctoral dissertation, he conceived the Warnock algorithm for hidden surface detection. He later partnered with Geschke at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center but faced resistance in commercializing the InterPress graphics language. This sparked their move to create Adobe and develop PostScript, leading to its release for Apple’s LaserWriter in 1985. Warnock’s creative talents also gave birth to Adobe Illustrator, a pioneering vector-based imaging program.
Narayen’s tribute to Warnock also highlighted their 25-year friendship, saying, “My engagement with John has been a bright spot in my career. Though we often discussed the future of technology, our conversations on unique topics like rare books, art, global history, and politics offered a remarkable glimpse into John as a true polymath.”
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