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FrameMaker is a desktop publishing application published by Adobe Systems especially suited for editing long technical documents.


A mathematic student named Charles Corfield decided to write a WYSIWYG document editor on a Sun 2 workstation because such software didn't exist. The prototype version of FrameMaker caught the eyes of the salesmen at Sun Microsystems. They got permission from Corfield to use the prototype as a demoware for the Sun workstations. In early days of Sun, they lacked commercial applications to showcase the graphics capabilities of their workstations. Hence the primitive FrameMaker received plenty of exposure in the Unix workstation arena.

Steve Kirsch saw the demo and realized the potential of the product. Kirsch used the money he earned from Mouse Systems to fund the startup company. The founders were Steve Kirsch, Charlie Corfield, David Murray and Vickie Blakeslee. Kirsch was the business visionary. Corfield was the software developer. Murray was the UI designer and doubled as a developer. Blakeslee took care of the business operation. Frame Technology Corporation was born. FrameMaker was a popular technical writing tool on the Unix platform. The company was profitable early on.

The FrameMaker software originally was written for UNIX, more specifically for SunOS on Sun 3 machines. Due to the flourishing desktop publishing market on Macintosh, the software was ported to Macintosh as the second platform.

Then in early 1990s, there came a wave of UNIX workstation vendors trying to win a market share. Sony, Motorola, Data General, MIPS, Apollo, etc. all produced UNIX workstations at the time. Like Sun at their early stage, all of these hardware vendors were hungry for commercial software ported to their platforms. Frame Technology received funding from numerous companies to produce an OEM version of FrameMaker on their UNIX boxes. At the height of it, FrameMaker ran on more than thirteen UNIX platforms including NeXT Computer's NeXTSTEP and IBM's then RS6000 prototype on a beta version of the AIX operating system. The NeXT and AIX version of FrameMaker runs on Display PostScript technology while all other UNIX version runs on X-Motif windowing environment.

Sun Microsystems and AT&T tried to push the OpenLook GUI standards to win over Motif. Sun contracted Frame Technology to implement a version of FrameMaker on their PostScript based NeWS windowing system. The NeWS version of FrameMaker was successfully released to NSA amongst the first few customers adopting the OpenLook standards.

The company later ported the software on Microsoft Windows. The company lost direction after the Windows version was available. FrameMaker used to target a professional market for highly technical publication, such as the technical manuals for the Boeing 777 project at the time. Each license of FrameMaker used to cost $2,500. The Windows version of the product brought the product to the $500 price range which cannibalized its own non-Windows customer base. The company tried to use extremely sophisticated technical publishing software to enter the home DTP market. It turned out to be a disaster because a tool designed for a 1000 page manual was too cumbersome and difficult for an average home user to type a one page letter to his mom. Sales plummeted and brought the company to the verge of bankruptcy. After several rounds of layoffs, the company was stripped to barebones.

Adobe Systems stepped in and acquired the product. Adobe stopped using the product to compete with Microsoft Word and put it back in the professional market. Today, Adobe FrameMaker is still a widely used publication tool to technical writers.

At the peak of Frame Technology's history, Interleaf etc. was FrameMaker's major competitor in the technical publishing market. The company is not in the same business today.

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