Photoshop Comes of Age

Photoshop 1 welcome screen

In February this year Adobe's Photoshop® programme came of of age with it's 21st birthday. This computer program has revolutionised illustration and design, being at the forefront of innovation as to how computers could be used in the design and creative process.

When the first version came out in 1990 it had to run on computers that had 1Mb of RAM and used processors that couldn't run a modern mobile phone It was therefore somewhat limited in what it could do.

Mac Classic II Computer

Our earliest use of Photoshop®, from anyone in the team, was in 1992 on a Mac Classic II computer. That project was to create student election posters, in black and white, on the Mac's tiny 9 inch mono screen. Now nearly twenty years after our first use of Photoshop® we are running the twelth version of Photoshop® on computers with 8,000Mb of RAM and with multiple processors each running several thousand times faster than that original Classic II Mac®!

The innovation that really helped establish Photoshop®'s use by the creative industry was Layers. Rather than drawing all on the same canvas, like a traditional piece of paper, Layers allowed illustrators to work on separate transparent layers and then hide or show these layers to create a composite image.

We think nothing of using layers now, whether it is creating a complex medical illustration with perhaps 100 layers, to creating a family Christmas Card where the text happens to be on a separate layer to the photo you have placed in the program.

Photoshop® has enabled the creative industry to do more and more interesting things, and some things that they perhaps shouldn't do. There has been controversy with marketing companies airbrushing the faces of stars and even in one extreme case changing the ethnicity of people in a corporate brochure.

Interestingly Photoshop® wasn't borne out of a big corporate company but came from a talented family called the Knolls. Thomas Knoll was a PhD student and he started writing some basic sub-routines to change monochrome images into grayscale images on his screen. His brother, John Knoll, noticed his work and as further routines were written suggested that they had the foundation of a program to edit images. They released this program as Image Pro in 1988 which was then sold along with a company's scanners. The brothers tried a number of software companies to take the product on before they made a deal with Adobe®.

Photoshop CS4 welcome screen

Thomas Knoll's name is still first in
Photoshop's program credits

Thomas Knoll still works for Adobe® and Photoshop® was the program that made Adobe® one of the worlds most influential software businesses in the world today. Photoshop® as a program keeps changing and improving, and when combined with the other Adobe Creative Suite® products such as Illustrator®, InDesign®, Flash® and Acrobat® they provide us with the core set of digital tools for medical illustration.

Not only are a large proportion of digital medical illustrations created on Photoshop®, but the innovation that the program has shown has led the way for other visual computer programs to follow. So thanks to the Knoll brothers for their smart thinking and also to their father Glen Knoll, who is said to have inspired them with his passion for photography and computers.
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