The first version of Photoshop

mck's picture

Photoshop's developers, Thomas and John Knoll began development on Photoshop in 1987. Version 1 was released by Adobe in 1990. The program was intended from the start as a tool for manipulating images that were digitized by a scanner, which was a rare and expensive device in those days.

Recently I happened upon a copy of Photoshop 1.0. This is what it looks like. It is a very primitive program by modern standards and doesn't have a quarter of the functionality that today's Photoshop CS2 (version 9.0) has. It's interesting to see how far it has come.

The most obvious thing lacking was layer support, which was introduced in version 3.0 sometime in 1993. PS 1.0 included primitive selection tools and basic image filters/adjustments, as seen above.

In this picture you can see Photoshop's whopping two palettes, which let the user pick a brush, color, and pattern.

This is Photoshop's preferences dialog box, believe it or not. You could set up separation, interpolation method, and column size, among others.

There was even (very primitive) type support in PS1.0, as you can see here. You could set font leading, spacing, style, and alignment — and you had to write your text into the type dialog, after which it was placed into your image.

And this is how it looks compared to Photoshop CS2. ;-)

leland's picture

Ah, those were the days...

Man this takes me back... I remember when version 3 came out - layers were soooo cool! Gotta love that 8-bit B/W 1.0 splash screen...

lfishy's picture


Surely they're 2 bit

jbelkin's picture


There are precious few apps in the entire history of computing where you stop dead in your tracks and realize the future just changed.

The first was the advent of MacPaint. Ultimately, most people could not do much with it but the possibilities that it suddenly presented to you - that you could bend the will of the computer and not vice versa.

And from Macpaint, a few years later, the prodigal son - Photoshop. In ONE fell stoke, like laserprinting/
desktop publishing changed the lead type moving press - Photoshop changed forever the manipulation of photos and illustrations. No longer did you need a darkroom, lab and years of expertise in airbrushing to manipulate photos ... now, EVERY MAN (and woman of course) had the power in their hands. Sure, it was cruder than it is now but when your previous choice was a darkroom, an exacto knife, airbrush equipment and a full photo lab ... it was revolutionary.

Along with MacWrite, MacPaint, Mosiac - Photoshop stands as one of the 4 main revolutionary applications ... all concincidentially developed first for the Mac.

(there are a dozen other apps as important but not as revolutionary such as MacDraw/Illustrator/Freehand).

While you sort of mock it a little, the truth is that 85% of the tools on PS 9 that people use on a daily basis or most often were there in PS 1. All you have to do is look at the palette ... things are improved and you have more choices but Adobe can't even improve much on the icons from PS1 - some new icons they've added offer no real visual clue as to what it is.

jonathanmortimer's picture

Actually Mosaic first

Actually Mosaic first appeared on unix platforms, Mac and PC versions followed shortly.

SEP Studios's picture

I concur, way ahead of it's time

I think Mackie is too young to put PS1 in the context of the time. Primitive? Hardly.

Photoshop was so well designed from the beginning that, at it's core, it's still essentially the same program (notice nearly all those tools and filters and options are still there). And from this brilliant nugget it has matured to be what I consider the most versatile and well designed program ever. Fatter, certainly (PS1 fit on one floppy), but I suppose it has to be to accommodate spiffy new features.

One feature I wish was still there was the ability to import and edit a small portion of a tiff file, then resave it back. Very handy for working with large files.

Whatever your age, PS1 deserves your respect.

whywaitwebs's picture

Photoshop is über powerful,

Photoshop is über powerful, but unfortunately the user interface is not still around because it was "so well designed" but rather because Adobe just hasn't come out with something better. Meanwhile, people are starting to do much more with much less powerful tools because of superior interfaces.

I for one find it sickening that PS1 so closely resembles PS CS4. You'd think they could do better by now.

But yet, aside from a lackluster interface, it is indeed an awesome creation.

gadget_lover_0007's picture

Performance changed remarkably while interface remained silent

Adobe has made revolutionary improvements in the field of image processing & manipulation. Adobe Photoshop is undoubtedly the best tool available so far for working with images both on personal as well as professional level. But every good software has its some weak points & adobe photoshop too is not untouched by it. I agree with jbelkin about Adobe's mysterious attitude towards balancing the front end with back end..The back end has improved quite a llot, particularly after the arrival of layers in Adobe Photoshop. Front end needs to be enhanced quite a lot, especially the icons & buttons, some of which are really difficult to understand on first look..Lets keep the hope alive..

spencereholtaway's picture


I remember superpaint, and I'm guessing that was pre-scanner?

That's where it all began for me, being sat down in front of a Mac SE at my dad's direct mail company and playing. :-)

Good times.

Spencer E Holtaway
Graphic Designer

Three Degrees's picture

That's pretty cool to look

That's pretty cool to look at. But I have one question. How do you retouch photos in 8bit b&w?

glenn500's picture

24 bit re-touch

To retouch photos or create any art for video in 1990, you needed the mighty and costly Mac2FX, which weighed in around $10,000. I worked as a paintbox artist at a post house, and we bought one of these for the second edit suite. It sure wasn't as speedy or for that matter, as high quality as the Quantel paintbox in the other room, but you couldn't help but see the future. All the big noisy racks are now gone...

I think 32 bit support (alpha channels) didn't show up until v2.

ahruman's picture

Monochrome is one bit per

Monochrome is one bit per pixel, not eight. Eight-bit colour, or even greyscale, made it easy.

jbelkin's picture

The Way Back Machine

3 Degrees - you have to keep in mind that only newspapers and newsletter were being desktop published in the early days and I know there was USA Today but there was not that much color in newspapers. People did not need that much color manipulation except for mag publishers - and of course, while they started to type and lay out some copy - everything else was still done by hand until the later Framework and Quark versions. You could run PS on a Mac II but it cost $4 to 10k 20 years ago - not sure what inflation might be but you could buy a cheap (not Yugo) car for around $6k so you could see having a color mac was a big deal and even for most ad agencies (DDB), there were only a handful of macs in the art dept.

plus - there was only a few "color" printers - dot matrix - 4 color I think ... which was amazing - there were dye sub printers (or thermal? not sure of technology- that took 10-20 minutes to print out something and my guess was that printer was around $40k?

Not sure how old you are but just think back 10 years ago pre internet or even pre broadband - how your attitude just changes. Before, after you got your photo back, that was 99% final - unless you could afford a high end retoucher, you just masked out any parts you didn't want ... now, you shoot in daylight and the "client' will say - put her in a red dress and amke it night time with a moon and shadows ... in theory we're saving time ... in reality, we're doing the work of 8 people :-)

mck's picture

Yep, in the 80's even

Yep, in the 80's even MacWorld wasn't desktop published.

notasausage's picture

Get Some!

I need to get a copy of this for my Mac Classic at home. System 7.0.1 in the house!

dburney's picture

Man - that's sweet!

I actually remember that launch screen. My first year of class in my design program had PS1 in the Intro to Mac lab - but I had no clue what it was for. But, the Color Lab had color monitors and Centris Towers - and PS2! I remember looking at those pallets and thinking "WTF - how do you use all this stuff." A few semesters later my Photoshop class had me learning on 2.5 - we were doing things you do with layers, but all in channels - man it was crazy! V. 3 was definitely a turning point for PS.

sogo2's picture

Working with the Beta version of PS 1.0

A little history...a little ad agency in NYC named KNVB acquired a "loaned" beta version of PS 1.0 one night and then the late night crew (who were also the day crew) used this revolutionary software to produce a 4 color large format sales piece for an eyeware company...over night. Everyone using the software that night was very excited about the possibilities which were unfolding as the night progressed...by morning the sales piece was nearly ready to present. KNVB was itself revolutionary since it was one of the first agencies to use Macs to produce print pieces for clients in publishing and then went on to show the advertising and publishing world how to "do it" themselves. KNVB designers were put on the client's sites to work on their Macs...just like Tom Sawyer (or was if Huck Finn) got everyone else to paint the fence by painting it himself and enjoying the process...and so it was for the art directors who hung out watching what was going on until they couldn't stand it anymore and got involved themselves. But photoshop made this process a lot more fun. Everyone knew the night we "acquired" the loaned beta version...that everything from that point forward was forever changed.

jonathanmortimer's picture

Well I prefered the Acorn A3000!

I was working in full colour around that time on the school computer, OK so it was on images from a hand-scanner but boy was that impressive at the time! I can't remember exactly but it was probably 256 colours too (scan was in greyscale, I used to colour them in by hand with the colour swap brush - a tool which I really miss in Photoshop). I have no idea what the paint program was called though.

I remember MacPaint on the SE but I don't think my local college had Photoshop until much later.

robak's picture

Still runs on my "old" G4/867Mhz under OS 9.2.2

I started in 1990 on a IIci with Director 2 and Photoshop 1. Then 2, 2.5, 3.0, 4.0... and now CS (still). So when I found a copy of PS 1.0 I had to have it. I don't even remeber how I got this copy (4-5 yrs ago) but I can't get myself to get rid of the G4 partly because of this piece of history.

BTW, remember PixelPaint Pro?

kmickey's picture

Silicon Beach Software

I worked at SBS (Digital Darkroom, SuperPaint etc) in the early nineties, and there was a story (I don't know if it's true) that the Knoll's gave a PS demo to the SBS management who didn't bite. They didn't see a need for color editing, and they already had DD (B&W photo editing) - either in progress or on the streets - I'm unsure on the exact timeframe.

SBS was eventually swallowed by Aldus, which was then swallowed by Adobe.

I know at least one or 2 of the SBS engineers had their names on the Photoshop splashscreens in the mid nineties, I'd have to go back to find an old copy to jog my memory.

Me's picture

PS 1

You can download PS 1 here...

Mark Simonson's picture


Your monochrome screen shots are a bit misleading. I first saw Photoshop 1.0 at First Tech in Minneapolis on a IIci (new at the time) running 32-bit color. What floored me was the fluidity of the painting tools--no aliasing at all, unlike other Mac paint programs of the time like PixelPaint (which I coveted) and Studio 8 (which I owned). In those programs, you spent a good deal of time just working out how to make the most of the 256 color limit. I also had Silicon Beach's Digital Darkroom and Letraset's Image Studio which both worked with 8-bit grayscale images, which I ran on a Mac II. Both were pretty slow, but I just thought that I must be reaching the limits of what could be done with that particular hardware. When I bought Photoshop 1.0 and installed it, I realized it wasn't the hardware, they were just not very well written. Photoshop seemed to do everything in real time by comparison. Not only that, it was easier to use. I don't think I touched any of those programs again once I had Photoshop. It made them all obsolete overnight. (I still have my 1.0 diskettes.)

Bio's picture


Anonymous's picture

Does anyone know what the

Does anyone know what the sysem requirements were for PS1? I’m doing a paper for school and that is one of the questions. Thanks!

Cyberrobban's picture

Who remembers Letraset Colorstudio?

If I remember correctly PhotoShop did not make that much of a splash initially from a Printing perspective.

This mainly because you could not color separate PhotoShop images. You could print color separations to film from PS, but you could not place the image in PageMaker or Quark and print it separated with the rest of the layout.

Instead you would place a solid color plate with 100% C 100% M 100% Y and 100% K where you wanted the image inside the layout program and then print out the separated layout and the separations from PS separately and then strip the negative films together manually - a major pain in the butt.

The same was true with PS major competitor at the time - Letraset Colorstudio 1.1. In 1991 Letraset launched version 1.5 which made DSC (desktop color separations) possible and Quark shipped a version were you could place the resulting image files and print composite separations. This was a major revolution.

Unfortunately Letraset charged $1.999 for CS and Adobe only $999 so when Adobe released version 2 with DCS support CS was swept away. Letraset gave up, sold CS back to the programmers (Fractal) who turned it into Painter which had a very different scope.

jbriare's picture

somewhere in the void

I have some 44mb syquest cartridges that have an entire months work backed up. I know there are some PS 1.07 files on there. I hade a b/w apple scanner that could take an image from a piece of paper and put it on the computer. It was then I decided (since I had cutting edge equipment) that I would become a full blown digital artist. I even drew a mustach on a picture of my face with Photoshop. Back then, I was editing PostScript files in Hypercard! I was on top of the world.

aequitasnicolae's picture

Adobe Photoshop 0.63b

I have a copy of Adobe Photoshop 0.63b


Adobe Photoshop 0.63b.sit.bin

free to all till I get sued....

JimD's picture

A bit more of the history

Photoshop was not even developed by Adobe.

Thomas and John Knoll developed a program originally named “Display,” it was first licensed to Barnyscan and packaged with their scanners as “Barnyscan XP.” Only 200 copies were sold.

In 1988 it was licensed to Adobe and released, finally, as Photoshop, in 1990.

And I used to have copy... though I can't find it anywhere. Too bad, it might have been nice to have.

natobasso's picture

And more

And more here:

Powerpoint is not a design application

hyu's picture

That's cool

This is the first time I see a first version of PSP, I started with PSP6, since 2000.
Thanks for sharing.

New Mac's picture

Please explain to me

How you are supposed to manipulate color photographs on a greyscale Mac and in resolutions that don't even come near photograph quality??

Tombag's picture

All Windows versions

I'm going to try and compile onto my PC every version of Photoshop available for Windows. That's 2.5 through to 10 (CS3) though I currently only have CS2, CS3 and 5 LE. I assume the earliest versions will be the hardest to find...

If anyone can lend a hand I'd be grateful.

Full Downloads's picture

All Windows versions

have some 44mb syquest cartridges that have an entire months work backed up. I know there are some PS 1.07 files on there. I hade a b/w apple scanner that could take an image from a piece of paper and put it on the computer. It was then I decided (since I had cutting edge equipment) that I would become a full blown digital artist. I even drew a mustach on a picture of my face with Photoshop. Back then, I was editing PostScript files in Hypercard! I was on top of the world.



PHOTOGOD's picture

Looking for different Freeware image editers.

Hi, does anyone have good freeware image editors that may help me out. I have some ove the paid suites, yet still find myself searching for that little something extra. Thank you Bob-

natobasso's picture

Bob, you might want to start

Bob, you might want to start a new thread for this.

Powerpoint is not a design application

natobasso's picture

A great visual history of

A great visual history of all versions:

Powerpoint is not a design application

natobasso's picture

And everything you EVER

And everything you EVER wanted to know about all versions!


Powerpoint is not a design application

RFPhoto's picture

Photoshop 1.0 _ 3.0

I remember those days as set the filter and go to lunch and see who gets done first. All I know is I did a lot of reading waiting for the machine to finish.

ssarts's picture

Pro still working in 3.0

An awesome illustrator by the name of Bob Staake still works in photoshop 3.0. He's even got a video showing how he works. It's neat to see how he uses selections to achieve what would be pretty easy in freehand.



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