Everyone knows PDF, but few know the behind-the-scenes story of how PDF came to be.
To celebrate PDF's 30th anniversary the PDF Association is releasing a trailer for its forthcoming documentary.
Created with the support of PDF Association members, “Beyond Camelot: the PDF story” will survey the context, challenge, development and ecosystem of the ubiquitous document file format.
Check out the trailer!
Video transcript: See more
Fade from black to an old desktop computer. A hand inserts a diskette. Violin music plays.
Fade to a woman. Onscreen text shows: Melonie Warfel, Adobe (ret.).
Melonie says: “When people would submit drugs electronically they would have to bring in these entire computer systems.”
Fade to trucks on highways, then fade to a man at a desk facing the camera. Onscreen text says: Mark Gavin, Appligent.
Mark says: “The logistics of delivering 3 million pages... you get a tractor trailer, you put these things on pallets that get lifted up with a forklift…
Fade to the Capitol in Washington DC.
“...and you take it down to Washington DC.” Mark concludes.
Fade to a man standing at a podium. Onscreen text shows: “John Warnock, Adobe Co-Founder”.
Warnock says: “This was one of the holy grails of computing, getting documents to travel across computers.”
As Warnock speaks, the screen shows “The Camelot Project, J. Warnock” as the title of a paper.
The screen then shows an old computer with a green screen, then fades to Warnock talking to an audience.
Warnock says: “Most computer guys had gotten used to little white letters on green screens and 5x7 dot matrix letters.”
Screen fades to black with onscreen text reading “Once there was just paper…”. A female voice says:
“What the FDA wanted to do was eliminate that, and just have a standard that became PDF.”
Screen changes to two hands holding a copy of the Portable Document Format Reference Manual. Onscreen is “1993”.
A male voice says: “Back then, the PDF specification was only about 600 pages…”
The screen shows covers of successive PDF Reference documents, 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3 in 2000.
The screen shows a man, onscreen text is: “Bruno Lowagie, Founder, iText”.
The screen fades to a blur of technical document pages.
Bruno’s voice continues: “I really hated PDF.”
Another male voice begins: “PDF as such is very powerful and flexible…”
Screen shows a man, onscreen text is: Olaf Druemmer, Founder callas software.
Fade to black. Text reading “...then communication evolved” appears.
Olaf continues: “...you can do a zillion things with it.”
Fade to Bruno, who says: “I didn't really grasp what PDF was about at first. it wasn't until after I had to support and maintain my own creation. I suddenly saw the light and I said hey I know what I did wrong, and I really love PDF!”
Fade to black. Onscreen text appears: “Institutions needed reliable digital documents…”. Then a woman’s face appears, with onscreen text: Susan Sullivan, National Archives & Records Administration (ret.).
Susan says: “Right when we were starting to develop that guidance I was the lucky one and I got to join into the PDF/A standards meetings.”
Screen shots images of various meetings around large conference tables. Olaf appears, followed by images of the covers of ISO standards for PDF technology.
Olaf says: “PDF/X turned into an ISO standard that just put down all the rules that you had to meet as minimum requirements for the PDF file to be successful.”
Fade to black. Text appears: “Told by the people who develop the standards…”. Then a woman appears, with onscreen text: Kate Murray, Library of Congress.
Kate says: “You have two things about PDF. Consistency. It's been around a long time, so there's a lot of tools about it, which is great, but it has also evolved.
Screen fades to a Google Trends graph for PDF from 2004 to 2023, with markers showing PDF 1.6 (2004), PDF 1.7 (2006), ISO 32000-1 (2008), ISO 32000-2 (PDF 2.0), 2020.
Screen changes to show Olaf, who says: “How do you make sure that the tools you are using actually do what they are supposed to do?
Fade to black, then a PDF icon appears.
The screen changes to show “Beyond Camelot: The Story of PDF”
The screen changes to show “This documentary is produced by the PDF Association. It will be released in late 2023. Members can support the project at pdfa.org. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The PDF Association logo is displayed.
Video with audio descriptions.
The staff of the PDF Association are dedicated to delivering the information, services and value members have come to expect. Staff members of the PDF Association include: Alexandra Oettler (Editor), Betsy Fanning (Standards Director), Duff Johnson (Chief Executive Officer), Matthias Wagner (CFO & Operations Director), Peter Wyatt (Chief Technology Officer), Thomas Zellmann (PDF Evangelist).