Chuck Geschke, Father of Desktop Publishing, Dies at 81


Dr. Geschke had the opportunity to “look around the corner,” said Shantanu Narayen, the current CEO of Adobe. “Civilization is all about written material,” he said. “Chuck and John brought this into the modern age.”

Charles Matthew Geschke was born on September 11, 1939 in Cleveland. His mother, Sophia (Krisch) Geschke, worked as a paralegal for the Cleveland Bankruptcy Court. His father Matthew was a photo engraver and helped prepare the plates needed for printing newspapers and magazines.

Matthew Geschke often told his son that there were two things to avoid: the printing business and the stock market. For a while, Chuck Geschke followed his father’s advice.

He was raised Roman Catholic, attended a Jesuit college in Cleveland, and attended a Jesuit seminary after graduation. But he dropped out before the end of his fourth year. He often said that he and the Jesuits had reached a mutual decision that the priesthood was not for him.

Building on his years of studying Latin in high school and seminary, he enrolled at Xavier University in Cincinnati, graduating with a degree in classical music. He then did a Masters in Mathematics before working as a mathematics professor at John Carroll University, a small Catholic university in Cleveland.

In the mid-1960s, his life took a different turn when he told a struggling student to leave university. The next year the student returned and said to him, “The best thing you ever did was kick me out.” The student had found a high-paying job selling computers for General Electric and was soon teaching his former professor how to write a computer program on the giant mainframes of the day.

Among the simple programs Chuck Geschke wrote, summer was a way to print envelopes to announce the birth of his daughter. Not long after that, he enrolled as a Ph.D. Student in the new computer science department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, one of the first in the country.