12 years old and still the future of design.
Posted February 16, 2010on:
Flashback 12 years.
Its 1998, and I am working for a photographer, scanning negatives and doing image manipulation with the (then) new Photoshop 5.
While reading some graphic design magazine my boss stumbled across a review of a revolutionary new program that promised to shake up the graphics world. (You can still find reviews for it that give you a sense of how big a deal it was. Like this one.)
The review explained how Wright Design, brainchild of Australian company Wright Technologies, combined both vector and bitmap graphics and pagelayout software into a single blazing fast image editing package. I remember them mentioning Wright Design was able to do with a single processor what Photoshop struggled to do with two. Interested predominately in the speed (since I was using an NT4 workstation that is probably less powerful that an iPhone) my boss found the Canadian office of Wright Technologies, and using whatever clout being the Canadian AGFA rep gave him, got himself into the Wright Design beta program.
Shortly thereafter I found a Wright Design 2.1 Beta CD on my desk with a note to try it out. (You can try it out yourself below)
Try it I did, and was impressed. Suddenly the division between vector and bitmap editing drawn by Adobe seemed strange and artificial. The speed was exactly what the reviewer had said, fast fast fast.
After getting some pretty strange output from some RGB to CMYK conversions in Wright, my boss heckled the company and got me a phone number of someone in the company who I could ask questions to.
A little starstruck to be talking to a real programmer in a highflying tech company, I would always pad my conversations about CMYK conversions with questions about the tech industry. It seemed that he was pretty happy to share the industry gossip and gave me a glimpse of what was going on for the company.
He explained that at some now forgotten tradeshow John Warnock himself had come up to the Wright Technologies booth and asked for a demo. They happily demoed the program and John apparently stood there for two or three hours peppering them with questions about how it did what it did.
Soon after the trade show, he told me, an invitation arrived to demo Wright Design at an advanced Photoshop users group. John introduced the demo and apparently joked that Wright Design was what they planned for Photoshop 11.
Not long after he told me that, Adobe came out with InDesign which looked like had been aimed squarely at replaceing Wright Design. It pretty much killed Wright’s toehold in the marketplace. Suddenly after it became difficult to reach my programmer friend and I realised that Wright had closed its Canadian office. I turned my attention back to Photoshop but still used Wright Design here and there for my personal projects. As time went on I would check in on Wright and see if there was an new version out there but there never was. Where I could find the program being sold at all, I watched the price slowly sink from around $800 to $99 on some cut rate third party site.
Clearly the company was on its last legs and sadly had no wish to bestow immortality on its product by following the lead of Netscape. (If someone out there has the source code somewhere, it would make one hell of a Free software project. I would love to make that happen…).
The end finally came in 2002 when they folded up and sold their IP to Microsoft and IBM for $2 million.
Here we are, 2010. The real Photoshop 11 has arrived, and, though it brought some big improvements the barriers between vector and bitmap images might be lower, but are still very much intact and its still a brutal resource hog. Though there is plenty wrong with Wright Design, its fascinating to think where it (and the industry) would be today had its development continued.
So here, in a fit of nostalgia brought about by finding some old “.wdd” files amongst my cherished backups, is my tribute to Wright Design. It was the future 12 years ago, and in my opinion, still is, after all these years.
Download Wright Design and try it out yourself. Tell me what you think.The serial number is included in the zip file.
You may need to run it in an older version of Windows inside a virtual machine.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, but as far as I can tell this software is abandonware. I am including it here with the serial number and the original tutorials (and files) to allow people to study this software. Contact me if you have a problem with this.
There were also a series of tutorials included on the CD: