Adobe Systems Founders Win 2010 Marconi Prize

Geschke and Warnock Revolutionized Industry-Standard Printing and Imaging Technology

NEW YORK — (BUSINESS WIRE) — June 29, 2010 — The 2010 Marconi Society Prize will be awarded to Adobe Systems founders, John E. Warnock and Charles M. Geschke, visionary business leaders and technological innovators who together helped fundamentally transform the world of print communications from a manual, mechanical process to a digital work flow. The two were selected for their research on printing and imaging technology and their development of Adobe® PostScript®, a revolutionary software technology that is now the worldwide printing and imaging standard used by print service providers, publishers, corporations and government agencies worldwide.

The duo will be awarded the $100,000 Marconi Prize, considered the highest honor specifically devoted to information and communications science, on October 15th at the annual Marconi Awards Dinner at the Rosewood Hotel in Menlo Park, CA.

"The selection of Charles M. Geschke and John E. Warnock as co-recipients of the 2010 Marconi Prize signals the evolving nature of what we mean by communications technology," said Jim Massey, the 1999 Marconi Award winner and Fellow.

The Marconi Society, established in 1975, annually recognizes a living scientist whose work in the field of communications and information technology advances the social, economic and cultural improvement of all humanity.

Geschke and Warnock met in the late 70’s in Silicon Valley where Geschke was a researcher and group manager in the computer science lab at Xerox PARC and Warnock worked for Evans & Sutherland at Ames Research Laboratory. In 1978, Geschke interviewed and hired Warnock for a position at PARC. From the start, their similar backgrounds and philosophies forged a close bond between them.

In 1979, while at PARC, Warnock and a coworker created a device- independent system called JaM—a precursor to PostScript—that incorporated graphics. Convinced of its potential, Warnock and Geschke continued to work on its further development and eventually produced Interpress, a melding of JaM and Xerox’s existing printing language. It was a significant advance but Xerox Corporation decided against including it among the firm’s commercial products.

Undeterred, Warnock and Geschke sensed an opportunity. If Xerox was not going to seize this moment, they were prepared to do it themselves. In 1982 they formed a new company, Adobe Systems, named after the creek that ran behind Warnock’s Los Altos home.

A former teacher of Warnock’s suggested they meet with venture capitalist, Bill Hambrecht. Geschke and Warnock unveiled a complicated business plan to develop systems composed of high-powered workstations and printers for in-house use at large corporations. Leveraging PostScript’s device-independent design, the workstation would be connected to a laser printer for draft copies and to a typesetter for camera ready output. Six other companies were trying to do the same thing; Hambrecht found the proposal so appealing he wrote them a personal check for $50,000 for startup costs. They shook hands and later received $2.5 million dollars from Hambrecht and Quist.

It was the only venture capital Adobe ever needed. They moved the business out of their homes, and quickly built a small organization that produced PostScript. Then they made a critical and fortunate decision. They had always believed they would be manufacturing hardware but they came to a startling realization: by opting for a technology licensing business model, they were relieved of the burden of manufacturing yet could profit handsomely.

They soon were attracting the attention of Silicon Valley’s heavy hitters, including Steve Jobs, who offered them a considerable sum for their business. It only served to confirm the value of what they’d created. (When Jobs, realized they wouldn’t sell him the company, he instead invested $2.5 million in Adobe. Apple cashed out the stock six years later for $87 million.)

By the end of 1985, the market had embraced PostScript, which fundamentally improved the cost, productivity and efficiency of the graphic arts, printing and publishing businesses. Geschke and Warnock’s fledging company had taken communications to a new level and in little more than 10 years transformed the world of print communications from a manual, mechanical process to a digital work flow. Today all communications technologies are converting to digital and Adobe’s products continue to expand the technological frontiers of photography, video production, animation, digital communication and the World Wide Web. Its ubiquitous programs include, among others, Adobe Photoshop®, Illustrator®, Acrobat®, InDesign®, Adobe Premiere®, and Adobe Flash®.

Adobe’s success has grown over the decades. It acquired over 20 companies and invested in many more, always driven by the vision and collaboration between Warnock and Geschke.

Bill Hambrecht said it best, “The mutual trust and respect for each other’s ideas never wavered. I honestly have never seen a better partnership. They always stayed in sync with each other and were both visionaries in the business. From a two employee business in Los Altos, California to over 7,000 employees world-wide, the Adobe culture has always remained the same. Care and concern, taking responsibility, managing well and loving your job, are the cornerstones of the Adobe way of life. The skills for their craft, coupled with their ability to see beyond the curve of their profession have allowed them to transform step by step, an entire universe of work.”

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