20 years of Adobe Photoshop
Glance around the Zone design studio, and it's likely that you'll see a number of our team using Adobe Photoshop. I'm not strictly a designer any longer, but I've used the program almost every day for more than a decade. So it only seems appropriate that I take a little time to show my appreciation of the program as it celebrates its 20th birthday today.
When I bought my first Mac - the formidably-named Power Mac 4400 - back in 1996, the only piece of software I bought at the time was Photoshop. My university tutors had advised me to get QuarkXPress as well. But when you're paying for software from your student loan, you need to prioritise things. I recall paying something like £500 for the pleasure of Photoshop. So finding another £800 or so for Quark 3.3 wasn't going to happen immediately, no matter how many extra evenings I spent behind the counter at Blockbuster.
I never particularly enjoyed laying-out duties, so I didn't take to Quark 3.3 very quickly anyway: in fact, I'd often end up setting up grids and guides in Photoshop and doing my typographic experiments there as well. Not the proper way to do things, perhaps, but no-one was any the wiser when I submitted my typography coursework. Photoshop's intuitive interface seemed to be more in line with my own way of thinking, and as a result I found it easier to teach myself how to use it. Try teaching yourself how to use Quark without any help.
Over the years, Photoshop's typographic handling has improved, and you can now control individual characters with a lot more flexibility. It still doesn’t offer every function needed for DTP, but that's not really its purpose; you've still got Quark and Adobe's own - and some may say superior - InDesign for that.
My first version of Photoshop was 3.0, which included layers for the first time. I immediately saw the potential in piling things on top of each other, which led to me joining Debut Art as a freelance illustrator specialising in montage-style artwork. While I always knew I wanted to work in the creative industry, I think it's fair to say that without Photoshop I wouldn't have become so interested in computer-aided design.
This excellent feature I found the other day runs through the history of Photoshop, version by version, and shows how the interface has slowly developed over the years. It's fascinating reading for anyone who's been using it for any length of time.
At the time of writing, we're up to the 11th instalment, commercially known as CS4, with CS5 due towards the end of 2010. And while I haven't explored a lot of the latest features yet, I always find that it caters for my needs. And if something can't be executed by an existing function, there's usually a way to achieve it. I'm sure that I'm not alone when I quietly celebrate 20 years of something that has undoubtedly changed my life for the better.
And, hey, it wouldn't be a proper birthday party without some entertainment, would it?
Over the years, the programmers at Adobe have hidden a variety of Easter eggs in each version. So the next time you find yourself aimlessly pushing pixels around on-screen, take a couple of minutes to see if you can find any of them yourself.