PS...happy birthday, 'Killer'

February 25, 2015  •  12 Comments

A silver anniversary is something to celebrate, especially in the commercial battlefield of information technology. Thinking back to the commencement of my IT career in 1980, I can recall the rise of the personal computer and the competition among software companies to develop the killer applications.

Who remembers the contestants in the spreadsheet battle?: SuperCalc; Visicalc; Lotus 1-2-3; Borland Quattro; and the victor, Microsoft Excel®. Excel remains a killer app. It's the industry standard number crunching go to and I've enjoyed using it for decades. I marvel at the power it puts in people's hands...or mice!

In the late 1980s I had a need to design fishing lures for a business that two friends and I had established in 1986 ( I chose CorelDraw®, a vector-based illustration application, to do the work and learned how to use it by RTFM (reading the flippin' (politely) manual).

Meanwhile, "In 1987, Thomas Knoll, a PhD student at the University of Michigan, began writing a program on his Macintosh Plus to display grayscale images on a monochrome display." (Wikipedia). He called it Display.

In February 1988, Ruby and I celebrated the arrival of our first child, Dylan, who is now a high school teacher in Gilgandra NSW. Meanwhile, in that same year, Thomas Knoll took a six month sabbatical to collaborate with his brother, Thomas, on further development of his image editing program. They wanted to rename the program to ImagePro but were disappointed to learn that the name was already taken...®! :-(

By the early 90s I was fortunately able to bring graphics skills to my day job in the electricity industry, designing a commemorative medal, a cover for North West County Council's book "Powering the North West" (a history of NWCC's first 50 years), and several corporate annual report covers.

By the mid 90's, the first tranche of industry reform in the energy sector had seen the amalgamation of 27 county councils into five energy distributors in NSW. By then I was working for NorthPower—based in Port Macquarie—still working in IT, and still able to bring my interest in graphic design to work. I project-managed the development of NorthPower's first website and became the webmaster. What a heady title in those early days! Haha.

Soon after, NorthPower decided it wanted to become a multi-utility and launched an internet service provider business called TurboWeb™. It was blazingly fast (so our advertisements said), running on 56kbps dial-up modems using the copper telephone network! "Fast"?...yeah, right! I transferred to NorthPower's marketing department to help build the brand.

Tasked with designing press advertisements for Turbo-Web, I needed to learn (RTFM) how to use CorelDraw's sibling application Corel PhotoPaint®—a raster-based graphics editing application. It could produce transparent GIF files and do other things that the vector-based CorelDraw could not. Mmmm, Corel PhotoPaint...the name was a nod to Thomas Knoll's baby which, by this time, had claimed the category—to use a marketing term.

In 1999, NorthPower purchased a Nikon Coolscan 35mm film scanner which I used to scan slides and negatives into a computer for editing. It came with a free copy of Adobe Photoshop® 5.5.

Thus had arrived my opportunity to get with the strength. I did the familiar RTFM exercise and was soon getting myself up to speed using the tool of choice for professional graphic designers since Adobe had purchased the licence from Thomas Knoll in 1988 and launched it as the killer app Photoshop 1.0 in February 1990.

Happy 25th birthday, Killer!

In 2004 I purchased my first DSLR camera and rekindled an interest in photography that began in a school darkroom when I was 17. I soon discovered how fortunate I was to already have the graphics software skills needed to take advantage of the new age of digital photography. My interest in photography soon blossomed (some could say 'degraded') into an obsession. I prefer the word 'passion'.

26/03/2005 07:17:45 AM

I took this photograph at The Backwash.

Lone waveLone waveA maverick wave rises at The Backwash.

I liked it and considered that it was probably the best and most satisfying photograph I'd taken in 30 years. I fiddled with it in Photoshop to increase the contrast and mused that the lone wave was in some ways a metaphor for my personality—that of an introvert unafraid to be alone in the wild or on a personal journey. As much as I liked the photograph, I felt that it needed more if it was to be a better personal metaphor. So I set about looking for the missing character.

23/04/2005 07:24:00 AM

I took this photograph at The Backwash.

Lone ternLone ternThe missing 'character' in a metaphor.


I made this landmark (for me) image using skills with a camera and software and my imagination.

LonersLonersThe epiphany moment for my photography.

Including the lone tern enhanced my metaphor, for I have been a nature lover and, in particular, a bird lover since childhood.


As I sat at the computer creating 'Loners' in Photoshop...

...I realised that I now had freedom and powerful tools with which to create imagined worlds based on photographic experiences.
I could do similar things, albeit with less finesse, in the darkroom years ago, but it was damned hard work—and hard to replicate—compared to using the sophisticated pixel-level tools of the digital age.

I was hooked!


Thank you everyone who took the time to drop in and leave a comment or well wishes for my recovery.

Des, the journey into the digital age of photography has been nothing but liberating for my work. I'm no longer constrained by technical factors. The only limits are those of my imagination. What more could an artist wish for? :-) Thanks for your thoughts on 'pre-occupation'. In themselves they are also liberating. I need not feel guilty about daydreaming!

Denise, thank you and remember "no guts no glory". You said it.

Robyn, yep, I don't miss the chemical age of photography.

Geoff, I never tire of rocks and water...or mesmerising campfires.

Roy, thank you. Monet said something like "What's the use of creating all of these pictures if the public doesn't get to see them". If people think they are worth seeing, that's ample reward for 'generosity'.

David, many decry Photoshop as cheating. I don't see it that way, obviously. It facilitates rather than creates.

Robbie Mc-First-cab-off-the-rank, you have hit the nail on the head. Enjoy the hell out of your journey in photography. ®
Tony Sullivan(non-registered)
Very interesting journey Rob, thanks for sharing.
Dan Norton(non-registered)
I liked 'Loners' so much when I first saw it a few years ago that I bought a copy and had it framed. It is placed on a wall in our bathroom - because that way I can look at it several times a day!
Roly Anderson(non-registered)
The tighter crop & darkened corners add even more impact to the image.
Almost symbolic bird, lifts our spirits as it flies alone into the stormy skies.
Beautiful colours, terrific pic. Thanks Rob.

Wishing you a speedy recovery
Roly Anderson
des crawley(non-registered)
Your journey through the software brings back memories of my own progressive conversion to digital made more urgent by the demands of teaching. Exciting times.

I have always liked "Loners" because of the symbolism that is present within.

I think all truly creative people need to be a tad selfish or pre-occupied with their musings. You do have the knack of sharing your vision as it evolves into a resolved image as is the case here, "Loners" is a triumph of imagined expression but yet revelatory. Thank you for sharing.
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