The Utah roots of Adobe co-founder John Warnock
John Warnock, the Utah mathematician and computer scientist who went from retreading tires to co-founding software giant Adobe, died Saturday at age 82.
Who he was: Warnock grew up in Holladay and attended Olympus High, where he failed 9th-grade algebra, according to a 2013 interview in the University of Utah magazine.
- After a teacher there helped him find his mojo, he majored in math and philosophy at the U. and worked up to a master's and PhD.
- He also worked at a Salt Lake tire shop — a job that he said motivated him to send a résumé to IBM. There he was trained in computer science.
- He went on to work as a researcher for the U.S. Department of Defense and as a scientist at Xerox, where he met Adobe co-founder Charles Geschke.
The intrigue: Warnock and Geschke were pioneering computer graphics in the 1970s and early '80s when digital printing was rudimentary. They developed a language to improve how computers control printers.
- Yes, but: Xerox wanted to keep the technique in-house to use with its own printers. Warnock and Geschke preferred to market it on its own, so they left to launch Adobe in 1982 and developed a similar language called PostScript.
Why it matters: PostScript became instrumental in making small-scale printing an option when Apple adopted it for its 1985 LaserWriter, one of the first printers mass-marketed for personal computers.
- It also influenced the PDF, created by Adobe.
What he said: "It's very important that a programmer be able to look at a piece of code like a bad chapter of a book and scrap it without looking back," Warnock told Susan Lammers in an interview for her book, "Programmers at Work."
- "Never get too enamored with one idea, never hang on to anything tenaciously without being able to throw it away when necessary; that should be the programmer's attitude."
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