Every time you hit the key PRINT on most computers, your file is being converted to something called PostScript to output real type from your printer. Real type—none of that bitmapped crap.

The person behind this was Dr. John Warnock, who died Sunday August 20, 2023.

I first met him in the early 1980s when he explained PostScript for me on a white board at Adobe Computer’s first office in Palo Alto, California. Over time I learned PostScript and taught the first course on it at RIT in the late 1990s.

PostScript was to be the output module for a typographic computer system. It was Steve Jobs who told them to drop the system and emphasize the PostScript.

He was a person of infinite curiosity and would wander the aisles of cubicles at Adobe. That is where he discovered an engineer using the object list from PostScript processing which became PDF. PDF has done more to change the way we print and communicate than any other program.

When Agfa commissioned me and four RIT students to write a book about using PDF for input for CTP and digital printing, he was an avid supporter and contributor. Some of those students were hired by Adobe.

I was at every talk he gave at Seybold Events. The most famous was his reaction to Bill Gates announcing a competitor to PostScript. John called it “mumbo jumbo.” Adobe released the specs for PostScript Type 1 fonts a year later.

When Adobe was developing InDesign, I was one of the testers. Every Friday, Warnock would e-mail me with something he had done. I would e-mail back my version and say “Top that Warnock!” And he would.

When I published the first book on InDesign, he wrote the foreword. To my knowledge, it was the only one he ever wrote for any book.

Two weeks ago, Barbara Beeton, who edits the Tugboat newsletter for TeX users, had a question from Donald Knuth. I e-mailed John and received an immediate response.

John and his partner, Charles Geschke, were a great pair. The “standardization” that PDF brought to the printing industry engendered computer-to-plate and digital printing. As well as digital publishing.

We have now lost both Chuck and John. Their memory may fade, but what they accomplished never will.