If you sent a PDF on your computer today, thank him. In 1980, he and a colleague created a way of sending digital documents to a printer, starting a company, Adobe.
Chuck Geschke, a computer scientist and entrepreneur who helped develop fundamental ways of creating, sharing and printing digital documents in the early years of the personal computer, notably the now-ubiquitous PDF, died on Friday at his home in Los Altos, Calif. He was 81. His wife, Nan, said the cause was cancer. In 1980, at Xerox PARC, a research lab in Silicon Valley, Dr. Geschke and his fellow researcher John Warnock created a way of sending documents between a computer and a printer. Their bosses at Xerox said the company could get the technology to market in about seven years. Dr. Geschke (pronounced GESH-kee) and Dr. Warnock, believing they would miss a huge opportunity if they did not move faster, left Xerox and founded their own company, calling it Adobe. They immediately started work on a new incarnation of their printing technology. The Apple co-founder Steve Jobs visited their tiny office in Mountain View, Calif., in 1983 and soon offered to buy this newborn start-up. Dr. Geschke and Dr. Warnock declined, but before the year was out, Apple had agreed to license their technology, called PostScript. A month later, Apple unveiled the Macintosh, which served as a template for the next four decades of computer desktops, laptops and smartphones. Its printer, the LaserWriter, unveiled the next year, was based on PostScript and built in partnership with Adobe. With Dr. Geschke as chief operating officer, Adobe became a key player in the rise of so-called desktop publishing.