HomeNewsCharles Geschke, Co-Founder of Adobe and Creator of the PDF, Dead at 81

Charles Geschke, Co-Founder of Adobe and Creator of the PDF, Dead at 81

by Anna Dunn
(Photo by Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Charles Geschke, the creator of the PDF and Co-Founder of Adobe, died on Friday. The company, Adobe, announced his passing.

Charles Geschke’s Life of Innovation and Achievement

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen wrote in an e-mail that “This is a huge loss for the entire Adobe community and the technology industry, for whom he has been a guide and hero for decades. As co-founders of Adobe, Chuck and John Warnock developed groundbreaking software that has revolutionized how people create and communicate.”

Narayen continued by listing Geschke’s specific achievements. “Their first product was Adobe PostScript, an innovative technology that provided a radical new way to print text and images on paper and sparked the desktop publishing revolution. Chuck instilled a relentless drive for innovation in the company, resulting in some of the most transformative software inventions, including the ubiquitous PDF, Acrobat, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, and Photoshop.”

Though, according to the Wall Street Journal, Geschke discovered computer programming mostly on accident. In fact, He studied Latin and liberal arts as an undergrad. At one point in his life, Geschke even considered the priesthood. His degree led him to a job at Xerox in the research department. This is where he met Adobe co-founder John Warnock. Together, they worked on software that translated images and words on a computer into printed documents.

But Xerox was a bit too slow when it came to recognizing the merit of their ideas. Therefore, the two left Xerox and founded adobe in 1982. Adobe is currently worth $250 Billion. That’s 50x the value of Xerox. Technology has advanced a lot since then, and Geschke was one of the trailblazers who has fundamentally changed the way people do business, create, and interact.

Friends and Family Speak Out

John Warnock said in a statement that “I could never have imagined having a better, more likable, or more capable business partner. Not having Chuck in our lives will leave a huge hole, and those who knew him will all agree.”

In 1992, Geschke famously survived a kidnapping. He was taken at gunpoint on his way to work. Afterward, two kidnappers kept him in a rented home for several days before the FBI arrived.

Barack Obama awarded Geschke and Warnock the National Medal of Technology in 2009. Geschke spent his recent years living in Los Altos, a Bay Area suburb.

His wife Nancy, who he was married to for 56 years, told the Mercury News, “He was a famous businessman, the founder of a major company in the U.S. and the world, and of course he was very, very proud of that, and it was a huge achievement in his life, but it wasn’t his focus — really, his family was.”

Geschke is survived by his wife, three children, and seven grandchildren.