Feb 19, 2008

Most Important Date in Digital Imaging History?


In the grand scheme of human history, February 19th may not go down as a momentous occasion, but it’s recently come to light that at least in the world of digital imaging, today signifies a more important date than most anybody realized. And that folks, is the delicious irony.

I’ve been noted as somewhat of a historian when it comes to Photoshop lore. I wrote an article for the now defunct publication Photo Electric Imaging (PEI). Elmo Sapwater, the senior editor at the time, had known that at one point in time, I was going to do a Photoshop book (ironically still listed here by Amazon) and one chapter was going to be a History of Photoshop. Due to a lot of factors, the book was never produced, but I had gathered a lot of info (and portraits of a lot of engineers) so Elmo thought it would make for a great story for the Feb, 2000 issue-Photoshop’s 10th birthday.


The image above was the cover (click here to read the story behind making the cover image). The article is still available in PDF form from my website here.


Photoshop 1.0 box shot (by Jeff Schewe)

So, okay, I knew that Photoshop shipped in February of 1990. But recently, Kevin Connor of Adobe was asked by PC World magazine EXACTLY when Photoshop 1.0 “officially” shipped. Kevin didn’t know, so he sent out an email to Russell Brown (because Russell was actually at Adobe then) as well as Thomas Knoll (since he was the co-author) and myself (since I had written the “History”).

Neither Russell nor I knew…but Thomas sent this along in an email:

On 1/3/08 7:49 AM, “Thomas Knoll” wrote:
> I’m about 80% sure it was Feb 19, 1990.

Well, if Thomas is 80% sure about anything, that’s good enough for me…so from that point on, I considered Photoshop’s “birthday” to be February 19th, 1990. Even Adobe finally woke up to the birthday occasion, it seems Adobe Germany wanted to celebrate Photoshop’s 18th birthday because in Germany, it denotes an official coming of age. I got phone calls and emails from Adobe marketing about making stuff available, such as the History article and box shots, which I did. I even filled out an email questionnaire for the Addison-Wesly blog about the birthday (my part is in English). So did Katrin Eismann (most of hers is in English but some in German, which Katrin speaks fluently).

But, something about February 19th stuck with me. I remembered that last year on 02-19-2007, I was down in Antarctica with Michael Reichmann on our 2nd photo expedition along with Bill Atkinson, JP Caponigro, Stephen Johnson, Ian Lyons and Seth Resnick. Read Michael’s article Antarctica 2007 – What Worked? What Didn’t. I specifically remember that on the 19th, we organized an instructors only Zodiak cruise to shoot material for the Lightroom 1.0 on-line launch party that was due to happen after we returned. I even did a story about the party on called Backstage at The Lightroom Launch Party.

I had posted both the video we shot while in Antarctica as well as a slideshow of images shot on February 19th, 2007. You can find the videos and slideshow here. In addition to the video (which is, in itself very funny) there’s also a video of Seth going swimming with the icebergs (well, bergy bits) which is worth the view.


One of the shots I took on 02-19-2007.

I thought it was pretty interesting to find out that Lighroom and Photoshop both shipped on the same day, thus sharing “birthdays”. It’s also interesting that the original co-author of Photoshop, Thomas Knoll, was also involved in Lightroom (Lighroom uses the Camera Raw pipeline) and that the #2 engineer on Photoshop, Mark Hamburg, was also the founder of Lightroom.

Photoshop turns 18 (old enough to vote) while Lightroom is only one year old–still in diapers.

What are the odds?

But that February 19 date was still bouncing around in my head. Then it hit me, Camera Raw was announced and shipped February 19th, 2003. The announcement was made by Bryan Lamkin at Photoshop World in Los Angeles which ran the 19th, 20th and 21st. I was there because Adobe convinced Thomas Knoll to show up and help promote Camera Raw 1.0 and that it would work in Photoshop 7. Bryan introduced Thomas at the keynote. After the event, we all went over to Greg Gorman’s house for a big party. Greg called it my 50th birthday party (my birthday is the 22nd of February).


Bryan’s Powerpoint presentation slide…


…announcing Camera Raw. It was made available for download for $99.95 starting that day.


This is what Camera Raw 1.0 looked like running in Photoshop 7 (rather primitive when compared to Camera Raw 4). Camera Raw 2 was released later in 2003 when Photoshop CS was shipped the same week as Photo Plus Expo.

So, now we must come to the conclusion that the day, February 19, 2008 does have some real significance. It’s Photoshop’s 18th birthday, Camera Raw’s 5th birthday and Lightroom’s 1st birthday. One might wonder if some elf at Adobe has done this on purpose…well, I’m here to tell you that ain’t so. Adobe is always worried more about the “next version” and rarely, if ever, marks the passing of some distant milestone…even if it does have great significance.

About all I can say is, thanks Thomas (and John) for getting hooked up in the first place to write a little application that Adobe thought would sell a few hundred copies a year (and turned into a pivotal point in the history of the digital imaging industry).

Here are some additional links to Photoshop and Lightroom lore on

Profile of Thomas & John

The Evolution of the Photoshop Splash Screen

The Evolution of the Photoshop Tool Bar

The Shadowland/Lightroom Development Story

A Visit to Adobe

A Visit to the Adobe Lightroom Engineers

The Photoshop Widows Club (Photoshop history by Ruth Knoll)

Photoshop Widows Club–Parte Due (Camera Raw history by Ruth Knoll)

Photoshop Widows Club–Rebecca Schewe (Jeff’s history with Photoshop by Becky Schewe)

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.