Herb’s Macground

Me and the Macintosh have a bit of history.

I had twenty years of design, photography, and lithography under my belt by the time the Mac was introduced in 1984. I bought the first Mac available in Nashville that year because I saw the amazing graphics potential for this new technology. By 1986 I had produced the very first 4/C poster ever produced in the Postscript language. This was years prior to Adobe Illustrator (I hand wrote 26 pages of Postscript code). I sent the poster to John Warnock (President and CEO- Adobe Systems) who promptly hung it on his wall and summoned me to talk about color separation.

In 1989 I was a consultant with Adobe (early Illustrator) but didn’t care for the mathematical framework of the program. It just wasn’t designer friendly- too much like an Engineer, not enough like an “Illustrator!”). Without violating a confidentiality agreement with Adobe, I contacted Jim VonEhr, Owner of Altsys Inc. with an idea. Altsys produced an amazing font design program called Fontographer. Fontographer used spline technology to make characters. Each character drawn was tied to that character on the keyboard. I eventually designed several publication ads for Altsys using their software. Instead of characters, I designed entire elements of the ad- headline, subhead, body, and logo. Within five keystrokes, I was ready for final film. Jim loved the ads and used them effectively for Altsys.

The lights went on in my head. I sketched out a graphical user interface (GUI) that would use Fontographer’s toolkit under a visual interface that I could identify with. Since litho and design were in my DNA, I used the merged-functionality of a light table and a drawing board as a visual metaphor for the interface. The application offered an amazing array of graphic arts tools and allowed the user to design in “preview mode” instead of wireframe “spline” mode (as Illustrator still does).

The product was under development for almost two years before it emerged on the market under the name FreeHand. Longer story shorter… Freehand was licensed to Aldus (Pagemaker folks) for several years before it was sold to Macromedia for one-hundred-million dollars. Yep, $100,000,000. My part of the pie: $2500 and a MacPlus computer (on which the development and testing was monitored). I did it for the passion, not for the money. I guess I just wasn’t savvy enough to think of it as an income stream.

I later developed an award-winning Photoshop plug-in (ScanPrep Pro) that automated all image preparation processes for all types of uses. SPP gave users the ability to produce professional-grade, publication ready color separations, halftones, and line art. That one I did with my business head on and made a lot of money as a result. We had a great seven-year run with ScanPrep, won every award available, and helped a lot of people produce great work. Mysteriously, much of SPP technology was “adopted” into later versions of Photoshop. To every thing, there is a season…


2 Responses to Herb’s Macground

  1. Mario Dimain says:

    You are a genius, Herb. I love what I am reading here. More power to you!

  2. mlsokoloff says:

    I daily mourn the passing of Freehand. True, in it’s last couple of iterations it was a patchwork quilt of dialog boxes and interface inconsistencies, but it still was a beautiful thing. There were many great design competitors out there until Adobe swallowed the world. Hrmph!

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