Artifact Details


Warnock, John oral history part 1 of 2

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Moving image


John Warnock is the cofounder of Adobe Systems and a significant figure in computer graphics, electronic publishing, and printing. In this oral history with David C. Brock, Warnock discusses growing up in Utah, his education in mathematics at the University of Utah, his professional trajectory in computing and computer graphics, and Adobe’s founding and early success.

Warnock first describes his childhood in Holladay, Utah, being raised in a non-religious family within a primarily Mormon community. Warnock notes his family’s artistic interests, including painting, drawing, and photography, and his continued passion for photography. He discusses his education in the Holladay public schools, and his transformation in high school from a lackluster student to a passionate one, with the help of his mathematics teacher.

Graduating from high school in 1958, Warnock goes on to describe his time at the University of Utah, earning his BS and MS in Mathematics, where his master’s thesis solved a problem in ring theory. Before returning to the University of Utah for his PhD, Warnock went to work for IBM, which he describes as his first exposure to working with computers.

Faced with the prospect of the Vietnam War draft, he talks about enrolling in his PhD, and his transition from mathematics to electrical engineering while working at the University’s Computer Center, where he researched computer graphics under an ARPA contract. Warnock’s dissertation solved the hidden surfaces algorithm, a computer graphics problem.

Warnock recounts his transition from the University of Utah, going to work for Computime and Computer Sciences before joining Evans & Sutherland to work on computer visualization projects. He discusses a significant contract, the harbor pilot simulator, which became the basis of E&S’ Design System.

Living in California and hesitating to return to Utah to work for E&S, Warnock discusses looking for a job in the Bay Area. He was interviewed by Chuck Geshcke for a job at Xerox PARC and joined the newly created Imaging Sciences Laboratory in 1978. Warnock describes innovations made in printing and computer display while there, including the development of JaM and Interpress.

Warnock addresses his and Geschke’s mutual frustration over Xerox’s limited release of Interpress, and the duo’s consequent founding of Adobe in 1982. He walks through the company’s early days: its funding, the development of PostScript, early technical and organizational challenges, including font licensing, and the company’s successful collaborations with Apple. Warnock concludes by describing the successful development of the PDF format and the popularity of their graphics software, Illustrator




Brock, David C., Interviewer
Warnock, John, Interviewee


Computer History Museum

Place of Publication

Mountain View, CA, USA






Oral history

Collection Title

CHM Oral History Collection


Computer History Museum

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