Photoshop was first sold as Barneyscan XP

Originally published at:


1-bit graphics?

1 Like

Adobe is an interesting story. Their 3 breakthrough products were unlikely successes.

  1. Photoshop was launched when no-one really owned a computer powerful enough to use it.

  2. Post-script was a concept that people didn’t really know they needed, but was essential to “compatibility” in printers. Yeah, OK but it might have been worse without it (and I still don’t know what PC load letter means)

  3. Acrobat was a program that did very little (nothing?), and did it very slowly after taking ages to open. But yet, here we are.


What a terrible name. It sounds like software for preschoolers.

1 Like

I would have thought Microsoft was the first to use “XP” in the name of a piece of software. Did it also predate Barneyscan?

Does QuarkXPress (1987) count?


Wow I remember using photoshop in 1991. On a greyscale monitor. It was ridiculously slow but felt so freeing. It is hard to believe there was nothing like it before; pagemaker was already in wide use years before, but I now remember it would generate layouts with x boxes where the photos would be manually placed after the printout.

1 Like

Just in case you aren’t kidding: “PC” is “Paper Cartridge” (or maybe Paper Cassette, but I think it is Cartridge), and “load letter” is “load letter sized paper” (i.e. 8.5" by 11" paper) as opposed to say “PC load A4” for fancy euro sized paper.

It is pretty poor formatting for one of the few messages you absolutely know a printer will end up displaying.


I think everybody who ever used a printer at the time, expecting to get out what they put in, knew that Postscript was necessary. Due to legacy, I did work with a pre-Postscript typesetter. Nothing more fun than having to re-proof 80 pages of dense text to make sure your printer compatible versions of fonts haven’t reflowed the text into some mess. Or to miss changing a headline somewhere and your job fails 2 hours into printing. Luckily that typesetter was phased out my first year on the job.


I’m not sure if I should feel proud or embarrassed that I was proficient in 90%, and an expert in 75% of Photoshop in 1992. After using it daily ever since, I’d still rate my proportional mastery at about the same levels. Thankfully, my waistline has not kept pace with that of Photoshop over the same period.

1 Like

“Totally Barney’d man, you can tell by the pixels.”


Photoshop came after Postscript. It by no means depended on it, but I wanted to mention this in case others thought (like I did) that you may have been producing a chronological list…

Postscript wasn’t essential to compatibility in printers.
I do remember the bad old days of WordStar/WordPerfect, with every printer having to provide its own drivers for each program because they all used different methods of producing output. (And of big companies like WordPerfect running their own BBS systems so that you could connect and download the latest printer drivers!)

Then Windows came along. It had the GDI - Graphics Device Interface - and now you had one method that could print to any connected printer that had a driver. Which was kind of amazing at the time. Just one print driver for Windows, and EVERYTHING can print to it? Wow.

Apple Macintoshes used Postscript instead of GDI. The exact details of this - and merits or disadvantages vs GDI - are irrelevant. The point is that both Apple and Windows (since at least version 2.x, IIRC) had one handy mechanism for printing. Were Microsoft ripping off Apple? Probably. Just as much as both were ripping off Xerox PARC, to be honest.

My point here is that Postscript is the layer Apple chose to provide printer compatibility, but that meant that printers for Apple machines could be expensive - they had to have the processind power to understand Postscript - and a license for it!
Whereas on Windows the application would (and I’m simplifying somewhat here) tell GDI “it should look like this”, and GDI then handed the image to the printer driver. It was now the printer driver’s problem, and very few printer manufacturers licensed Postscript to solve that problem. They just found other ways. (Insert a rant about the mid-2000’s crapware “GDI Printer” inkjets here…)

Because of this Postscript was never a big thing on Windows machines. The “PC Load Letter” message you mention has little to do with Postscript - it’s commonly associated with HP Laserjets starting with the LaserJet 4. Those printers didn’t have Postscript - HP had their own alternative called PCL (Printer Command Language). Postscript was an optional extra you had to buy for your LaserJet, and very few did because the Windows printer driver was pretty good and made Postscript redundant outside of a few specialist areas.

As we’re on memory lane, it may be worth mentioning that Windows until version 3.1 didn’t have scaleable fonts. Because of that a lot of early 90’s Windows software came with a bundled version of Adobe Type Manager, a Windows application that allowed scalable fonts to be used by software that chose to do so. This allowed the use of Postscript Type 1 fonts on Windows without needing full Postscript facilities - effectively allowing better typography than the default bitmap Windows fonts provided.
As I said, the need for that went away with Windows 3.1 and TrueType (which was developed by Apple and Microsoft to try to escape dependence on Adobe!).
By the time Windows 95 shipped, most new software no longer came with Adobe Type Manager - it simply specified that it required Windows 3.1 or higher! Adobe Type Manager continued to be available for Windows 9x/ME, but couldn’t work with Windows NT due to architectural issues. From Windows 2000 onwards, Microsoft included the technology in a licensed form that did work (albeit more for backwards compatibility than anything else - it wouldn’t do to have old documents not print due to a font choice!)

I don’t know how Adobe Type Manager was licensed, but for a few years in the very early 90’s a lof of “professional” sofware shipped with a bundled version of it, and I’d imagine that Adobe probably made quite a bit of money out of those licenses…

So if I were writing their history I’d definitely consider a small chapter named “Type 1 Fonts”. I’m pretty sure they also helped make Adobe what it is today…


I think I even have a Photoshop 1 diskette for the Mac Plus somewhere.
Single density=720kb (same for MS Word, btw.)


It does now, but Barney & Friends didn’t hit the airwaves until 1992. Before then most people probably would have thought of the Don Knotts character.

I always just called it Quark.

1 Like

Touché, I was a year or two too old for Barney the dinosaur so I can’t recall when he got on the scene. ,

Of course it could also be associated with Hal Lindon of Barney Miller.

Agreed on the freeing feeling. When I first used the clone tool, around that same early 90’s time, I pretty much thought anything was possible. So, naturally, a younger me used it (in combination with some other non-digital, physical tools) to modify a certain small plastic card. Worked like a charm until it was no longer needed…the card, that is.

Haha you are not alone! I felt drunk with power!

1 Like

Take that, everyone who’s ever made fun of Pascal!

Yup, and although it’s not pictured here, one of the conference rooms on the Photoshop floor at Adobe HQ in San Jose has the Photoshop Pascal source code printed on the wall. And if you REALLY care, you can download it from the Computer History Museum.

1 Like