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Notes on the history of PostScript

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Posted to the newsgroup comp.lang.postscript by Patrik Hagglund in September 1998

The concepts of the PostScript language were seeded in 1976 when Dr John Warnock was at Evans and Sutherland Computer Coporation. At that time John Gaffney, of Evans and Sutherland, was developing an interpreter for a large three-dimensonal graphics database of New York harbour. Gaffney conceived the "Design System" language (very similar to the language FORTH).

John Warnock then joined the Xerox Coporation's Palo Alto Research Centre (Xerox P.A.R.C) to work with Martin Newell. They reshaped the Design System into JaM (John and Martin) which was used for VLSI design and the investigation of type and graphics printing - culminating in InterPress, Xerox's printing protocol.

In 1982, John Warnock left Xerox, together with Chuck Geschke, and founded Adobe Systems Inc. The name Adobe was taken from an Indian creek near to where John Warnock lived. Their aim was to build a dedicated publishing workstation and the final two-dimensional graphics handling product was named PostScript.

About the same time Steve Jobs, who had earlier founded Apple Computers, was looking for a solution for a high quality office printing system problem. Steve Jobs urged Adobe to develop a system to drive a laser printer. With the drop in price of memory, the first low cost laser printer engine from Canon, and a bit-mapped computer from Apple, the first PostScript printer hit the market in 1985. This was the Apple Laserwriter printer and it sold for $7000.

As hardware continued to improve, memory price continued to fall and with the appearance of powerful processors, such as the Motorola 68000, graphics applications continued to expand and became more widespread. PostScript was a mature product and was fully embraced by the industry, including all of the world's leading mainframe manufacturer's (such as Digital, IBM and HP/Apollo) and, possibly more importantly, the PC manufacturer's (such as Apple, IBM, Atari, Amiga and Acorn Archimedes).

First mention of PostScript

1984 was the year that PostScript first was mentioned in a newsgroup.

From: info-mac (info-mac@uw-beaver)
Subject: Laser Printers 
Date: 1984-09-22 11:42:18 PST 

From: Wang Zeep 
1)  Rumor from a friend in the business of designing laser printers has
Apple using the Post Script protocol from Adobe systems to specify their
page layouts.  This is important because

        a) Microsoft and QMS both will support the same protocol.
        b) Mergenthaler Linotype signed with Adobe to provide high-
           quality digitized fonts for the PostScript protocol.

2)  He also says that it will be massively intelligent and will include
a 12 Mhz 68000 and 2 megabytes of 256Kbit RAMs.  He cannont see how
it will come out for less than $8000.  (QMS's version of the Canon
is said to be similar and costs $10000).

3)  One possibility if this is all true is that Apple may be able to sell IBM 
compatible laser printers, as Microsoft will surely bring out a PostScript
compatible version of Word.


First messages posted to comp.lang.postscript newsgroup

In 1987, the first messages was posted in the comp.lang.postscript newsgroup.

Message 1 in thread 
From: Joshua Stein (josh@pbhye.UUCP)
Subject: Horizontal format with pic or Postscript? 
Newsgroups:, comp.unix.wizards
Date: 1987-06-09 11:53:31 PST 

I am working on a Sun workstation using the IDE package for software design and have
run into a little problem. A data flow diagram that is visually ok on the
screen becomes compressed when printed on a laser printer. The diagram is wide
and I am at a loss as to how to tell either pic (if this possible) or Postscript(the
two available graphics packages) how to rotate the diagram and print it
horizontally (actually the laser printer would take care of the printing if I
could just get the generated bit map correct). Also, if anyone who knows some-
thing of how to scale drawings in those packages I would certainly appreciate
some advice.

Much of the above is probably copyrighted so please apply the usual disclaimers
at this point.
Joshua Stein    Pacific Bell            "Neat Stuff!!"   / --) koo koo ka
YADD(Yet Another Disclaimer Disclaimer)                 /\ ) )
(415) 823-2411 uucp:{ihnp4,dual}!ptsfa!ptsfb!josh      |   \/ rn].

Message 2 in thread 
From: jsa@tut.UUCP (jsa@tut.UUCP)
Subject: Re: Horizontal format with pic or Postscript? 
Newsgroups:, comp.unix.wizards
View this article only 
Date: 1987-06-11 00:55:09 PST 

in article <1642@pbhye.UUCP>, josh@pbhye.UUCP (Joshua Stein) says:
> Xref: tut comp.unix.wizards:1834
>screen becomes compressed when printed on a laser printer. The diagram is wide
> and I am at a loss as to how to tell either pic (if this possible) or
>Postscript(the two available graphics packages) how to rotate the diagram and 
> print it horizontally (actually the laser printer would take care of the
> printing if I could just get the generated bit map correct).

I had a kind a similar problem when trying to get large tables (run through
tbl and then ditroff ) to landscape -format to our APPLE (postscript)

What I did was to take ditroff's postscript output to a file and then
modify the postscript file to be printed horizontally.

Here's the script and the lines to be added and the manual page:

--------------- /usr/local/2land -----------------------
#! /bin/sh
for i
  cp $i $i~
  ed $i <<'LOPPU' >/dev/null 2>&1
  . r /usr/local/.2land.rot
--------------- /usr/local/.2land.rot --------------------
0 11.5 72 mul translate
270 rotate

--------------- /usr/man/manl/2land.l --------------------
.TH 2LAND 1L 6/3/87
2land, convert postscript -files to landscape format for laser writer.
.IR 2land
file [file...]

.IR 2land
program converts postscript files to landscape format for APPLE laser writer.
This program is mostly useful is you wish to print out tables which
require rather a wide paper. The reason to make this program was
that there was absolutely 
.IR no
way to print a file in landscape format after having run it through
.IR ditroff (1).
What the program actually does is that it finds the place in a
postscript file immediately after first 2 initmatrix -commands,
which is the way ditroff initializes the scaling. Then using
.IR ed (1)
it puts there commands to relocate the place of the origin
and to rotate the printing direction by 270 degrees.
This program actually modifies your postscript file, but it does
leave you the original one as well.
The name of the original file is extended like emacs does
(adding a '~' to the end of the name).
Remember, that in landscape -format page length is about 6.5 inches
and line length is about 11.5 inches. DO NOT FORGET TO TELL THAT


- the command itself
.IR /usr/local/.2land.rot
- this has the information to be added

.IR lwf (1)
- which handles normal text perfectly.

This is
a filter, because sed can't cope with multiple line searches.

I hope this is of some help.
          Jari Salo              Tampere University of Technology 
UUCP:     jsa@tut.UUCP           Computer Systems Laboratory
Internet:             PO box 527
Tel:      358-(9)31-162590       SF-33101 Tampere, Finland


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