The PDF took shape from the concept of the paperless office that was popular at the start of the 1990’s.

Thirty years ago, Dr. John Warnock in collaboration with his team, sought to fix the following problem: “The inability to exchange information between machines, between systems, between users in a way to guarantee that the interchanged file would look the same everywhere it went.”

Dr. John Warnock, the Adobe co-founder, paved the ground towards resolving the aforementioned problem in a memo dated 1991, in the Camelot Report, where he delineated the idea for the PDF.

Driven by his vision and need to meet potential clients, Dr. John Warnock was looking for a Windows programmer to produce a demo for IBM, and he bumped into Bob Wulff, who was leading a team to produce a demo software at the time.

The demo turned out to be a great success, and the development of a commercial version started first under the code name Camelot, after which it was renamed to Carousel. The documents created with Carousel were named Portable Document Formats, or PDFs, and here started the journey.

Since its inception, the PDF has seen tremendous growth over the years and new features have been continuously introduced. We will outline the salient features that have emerged across the lifespan of this efficient file format. We will also highlight the ones that we will grasp throughout this course.

The PDF journey

The following figure is a timeline showing the chronological order of PDF releases throughout their lifespan:

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