The Photoshop Version 1 Demo

YouTube / Adobe Photoshop
YouTube / Adobe Photoshop / YouTube / Adobe Photoshop

The very first version of Photoshop shipped in late 1988, bundled with slide scanners. The image editing tool was designed to let home computer users retouch photographs—something that had previously required serious hardware to do (whether that was massive computer hardware or a darkroom, either way was rough). This super-early version only shipped a few hundred copies bundled with scanners, and Adobe waited until February 19, 1990 to release a standalone version of the app. It ran only on the Mac, but it was amazing.

Adobe is celebrating "25 years of Photoshop" now, though I think they should have started partying with us two years ago. Anyway, technicalities.

So in the video below we have a historical gem: John Knoll, one of the two brothers who created Photoshop, gives a demo of the software. This is not an old video—he's redoing the demo he did decades ago—but it's a fascinating look at what the state of the art was in Photoshop version 1.0.7.

Some things to watch for, if you're a geek:

1. Knoll appears to be using a Macintosh Quadra 800 series computer, which was released in 1993. For comparison, the Mac models released in 1990 included the Mac Classic, IIfx, and LC. I presume the IIfx would have been the fastest available machine to run Photoshop when it was released, but for the demo's sake, something slightly more modern is close enough.

2. Knoll is using an Apple Pro Keyboard (and mouse), which is a USB model introduced in the year 2000. Some minor wizardry has been employed to connect these modern input devices to a computer from the early 1990s (that, of course, lacked USB because it hadn't been invented yet).

3. When we first see the Mac's screen, earlier versions of PhotoShop are visible in the upper left. These are pre-release versions prior to version 1.0. You can also see plenty of versions of "ImagePro," which was the name of the application before release. I wonder what those even older versions are like.

4. Notice how grainy the photo looks on the computer. Knoll notes that it's a "24-bit image on an 8-bit display," meaning that the image file has full color fidelity, but the computer hardware could only show 256 colors at once. This makes the image look like a GIF (which also is limited to 256 colors, being an old file format).

5. Check out how slow it is, and how the "wristwatch" cursor is shown instead of the ultra-modern "spinning pizza of death" seen on Mac OS X while the system is working. It's also interesting to see the black-and-white menus and dialog boxes. Those were the days.

I use Photoshop every day. It's vastly faster, smarter, and more capable—but it's clearly still the same basic application. Here's to 25 more years!