Adobe co-founder Charles Geschke dead at 81

LOS ALTOS, Calif. — Charles “Chuck” Geschke, who co-founded the major software company Adobe Inc., died Friday. He was 81.

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Geschke died in Los Altos, California, a suburb of San Francisco, The Mercury News reported.

Geschke founded Adobe in 1982 with John Warnock, a colleague from Xerox, the newspaper reported. The duo is credited with developing the Portable Document Format technology, or PDF.

“He was a famous businessman, the founder of a major company in the U.S. and the world, and of course he was very, very proud of that and it was huge achievement in his life, but it wasn’t his focus -- really, his family was,” his wife, Nancy “Nan” Geschke, 78, told the Mercury News on Saturday. “He always called himself the luckiest man in the world.”

After earning a doctorate from Carnegie Mellon University, Geschke began working at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, where he met Warnock, the Mercury News reported. In 2009, President Barack Obama awarded Geschke and Warnock the National Medal of Technology, according to The Associated Press.

“This is a huge loss for the entire Adobe community and the technology industry, for whom he has been a guide and hero for decades,” Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen wrote in an email to the company’s employees. “As co-founders of Adobe, Chuck and John Warnock developed groundbreaking software that has revolutionized how people create and communicate. Their first product was Adobe PostScript, an innovative technology that provided a radical new way to print text and images on paper and sparked the desktop publishing revolution. Chuck instilled a relentless drive for innovation in the company, resulting in some of the most transformative software inventions, including the ubiquitous PDF, Acrobat, Illustrator, Premiere Pro and Photoshop.”

Geschke became involved in computer science while teaching math at John Carroll University during the 1960s, the Mercury News reported. According to his wife, Geschke was upset when he had to fail a master’s student out of the program. About a year later, the student called to say he’d discovered computer programming and would love to teach Geschke. That led to his Ph.D.

Geschke survived being kidnapped in 1992. As he arrived to work, Geschke, then 52, was seized at gunpoint by two men, the AP reported. He was taken to Hollister, California, where he was held for four days. A suspect caught with $650,000 in ransom money eventually led police to the hideout where Geschke was held captive, the AP reported.

Geschke and Warnock moved Adobe’s headquarters to downtown San Jose in 1996, the Mercury News reported. The pair supported the founding of the city’s Tech Museum of Innovation, now called the Tech Interactive, in 1998.

“What he and Adobe did for San Jose -- turning things that were ideas into concrete action -- made Chuck Geschke just a very, very good man,” San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery told the newspaper.