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The Legacy Of Chuck Geschke, Co-Founder Of Adobe


The next time your anger rises at your computer printer, stop, breathe in, and appreciate the technological ingenuity. And then think about the kindness of the man who made it possible - Chuck Geschke. Back at the dawn of desktop computers, he co-founded Adobe Systems. Geschke died earlier this month at age 81 from cancer.


Now, like any other Silicon Valley genius, Geschke will certainly be remembered for his accomplishments but maybe as much for the ethos that was the cornerstone for Adobe. Along with his co-founder, John Warnock, Geschke insisted...


CHUCK GESCHKE: The first principle that John and I agreed on immediately when we started Adobe is that we wanted to build a company that we personally would like to work for. We figured if we'd like to work for it, all the other nerds that we knew would like to work for it, too.

CORNISH: That's Chuck Geschke speaking in 2011 at his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University. Now, he came from a family of printing professionals in Cleveland, but he didn't take a direct path from what his father and grandfather did to online printing. In fact, he started out training for the priesthood, and then he switched gears again, studying math and then discovered computer science.

KELLY: In the '70s, Geschke went to work at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. Within the center, he formed the Imaging Sciences Laboratory. This was 1978. He hired Warnock to help design a computer printing protocol named Interpress. It worked really well, so well that Geschke took it to the head office at Xerox, and he asked...


GESCHKE: When can we start marketing Interpress to the world? And they said, whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. At Xerox, it takes seven years to bring out a product.

KELLY: But Geschke was determined to get going because...

DAVID BROCK: Seven years is like many lifetimes in the life cycle of computer technology.

KELLY: That is David Brock, a curator and director of the Software History Center at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

BROCK: So they decided to leave and commercialize the technology on their own.

CORNISH: Adobe Systems was founded in 1982. Its first venture was PostScript, software that told printers how a page should look. And essentially, desktop printing was born.

KELLY: Chuck Geschke insisted on treating Adobe employees with respect, encouraging them to spend time with their families, not stress too much about work, says Brock.

BROCK: Their corporate culture is essentially the golden rule.

CORNISH: These days, anyone making a video, adjusting audio, drawing on a screen or downloading a .PDF - that's a portable document format - is basically using an Adobe innovation. And back when that first product - PostScript - was perfected, David Brock says Geschke went home to Ohio.

BROCK: And he took it, and he showed it to his father. And his dad examined it and looked up and said, Charlie, you finally did it.

CORNISH: He joined the family business after all. Adobe co-founder Chuck Geschke died this month at the age of 81. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Audie Cornish
Over two decades of journalism, Audie Cornish has become a recognized and trusted voice on the airwaves as co-host of NPR's flagship news program, All Things Considered.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Art Silverman has been with NPR since 1978. He came to NPR after working for six years at a daily newspaper in Claremont, New Hampshire.
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.