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Photoshop Turns 25: A Look Back At The World's Best Design And Image Editing Sofware

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The venerable photo and image editing tool Photoshop is celebrating its 25th year and in the past two decades Adobe has proven its versatility and nimbleness to give photographers and image editors, new and experienced, any and all the features and functionality any creative artist could ask for in a digital age.

But all its accomplishments don't come without a price -- including criticism and jealousy from an increasing number of competitors striving to knock Adobe off its long-held perch as the "tool" for anyone in the creative artistic process of making photos, films and design images.

One achievement that critics can't assail, however, is that Adobe has made image creation and alteration something everyone and anyone can do.

"Technology is democratising in such a huge way that you used to have to be a dedicated pro, you used to have to spend countless hours," says Winston Hendrickson, VP of engineering for Adobe's digital imaging products. "But now these sophisticated technologies are available in the palm of your hand."

Yet it's also borne an industry based on distortion, and the ubiquitous verb of someone or something being 'photoshopped,' though Hendrickson claims the company cannot take credit for advancing image distortion capabilities.

"People were altering photographs for 100 years before Photoshop came along," states Hendrickson.

Advancing image manipulation, which at times can range from capricious and humorous to nasty and bordering on defamation of a person or company's character, was likely not the intention of its founders, the brothers Thomas and John Knoll.

As the story goes, Thomas created a program while studying for his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, and his brother John, at the time employed by George Lucas's Industrial Lights and Magic, encouraged Thomas to flesh it out.

They met with Adobe, and as the saying goes, history was made once Adobe licensed the software in 1988 and the brothers began selling Photoshop for Mac users initially.

Now, a quarter of a century later, Thomas Knoll remains amazed at the software's success.

"Not in my wildest dreams did we think creatives would embrace the product in the numbers and ways they have. It's inspiring to see the beautiful images our customers create, the careers Photoshop has launched and the new uses people, all over the world, find for Photoshop every day," he said.

As for the critics and competitors, Adobe clearly welcomes both.

"Ultimately, competition is good; it keeps us on our toes. We are always looking at solutions and evaluating whether this is going to be the 'killer,' and that's the kind of energy that we have internally so we can stay on top because we take this very seriously and we care about this deeply," says Photoshop's Senior Product Manager Zorana Gee.

"We're always perched and attuned and listening carefully and evaluating everything as if the competition were breathing down our necks."

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