Photo of John Warnock

John Warnock

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Computer Science
For their pioneering technological contributions that were central to spurring the desktop publishing revolution and for their role in changing the way people create and engage with information and entertainment across multiple mediums including print, video, and the Web.

John Warnock on overcoming adversity

“It has always been my basic instinct to out-invent and out-engineer the competition.” John Warnock’s instincts led him to corner one entire corner of the computing industry and jump miles ahead of competing alternatives when he founded Adobe Systems with Charles Geschke.

Born in 1940, Warnock earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. at the University of Utah in mathematics, philosophy, and electrical engineering. When a professor received a major grant from ARPA to develop interactive design and computer graphics, Warnock switched majors to computer science set himself on the path that would lead to Adobe. He credits his time working on a harbor simulator at Utah as the source of many of the ideas behind the PostScript language, a key ingredient of Adobe’s desktop publishing software.

1978 he joined Xerox PARC, Xerox’s R&D division and a hothouse for Silicon Valley innovation—PARC is responsible for, among other innovations, developing the first graphical user interface in computing. While there Warnock developed Interpress, Xerox’s printing protocol. When Xerox did not see the value in pursuing Interpress further, Warnock and Geschke left to found Adobe Systems, using their expertise to create a definitive suite of software for designers and publishers that shapes desktop publishing to this day.