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The history of SDL's language solutions

Since its entry into the translation software market in 1984, TRADOS (acquired by SDL in 2005 and now known as SDL Trados) has become a widely recognized name within the industry.

SDL Trados has steadily grown its customer base of over 250,000 translation professionals (from freelance translators to large enterprises) by continuously delivering innovative and robust translation memory software.

Daniel Brockmann and Matthias Heyn look back on 30 years of TRADOS. (19 minutes)

How did it start?

TRADOS (TRAnslation & DOcumentation Software) was established in Stuttgart, Germany by Jochen Hummel and Iko Knyphausen in 1984.

Hummell and Knyphausen initially set up TRADOS as a Language Service Provider (LSP) following their decision to tender for a translation project for IBM.

The 80s

The mid-eighties saw the emergence of Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) tools following the increasing demand for translated content. Translators were unable to keep up with number of translation projects being passed on to them from customers, leaving a requirement from technology to help bridge the gap between supply and demand. Hummell and Knyphausen recognized the opportunity for technology and started developing software to solve this issue.

At the dawn of the translation memory era in 1988, TRADOS developed TED, a very early version of what we know today as Translator's Workbench, one of the translation memory applications in SDL Trados 2007 Suite. It was around this time that TRADOS made the decision to split the company, passing the translation services part of the business to INK in the Netherlands, so that they could concentrate on developing translation software. It took a while for TRADOS to get established as a translation technology provider, however momentum soon built up following successful strategic decisions, including moving software development onto the Microsoft Windows platform.

The 90s

In 1990, TRADOS launched their first product, MultiTerm (a terminology database, now known as SDL MultiTerm) into the market place. The first version of Translator's Workbench was later released in 1992. Trados also started expanding as a company in the mid-nineties. Matthias Heyn, a computational linguist from the University of Stuttgart joined the company and developed the first alignment tool on the market (T Align, later to become WinAlign, one of the applications available in SDL Trados 2007 Suite). In addition, TRADOS began to open a network of global offices, including Brussels, Virginia, UK and Switzerland.

The nineties saw a marked increase of development in translation software technology. Many freelance translators were benefiting from the increasing sophistication and affordability of personal computers, meaning that CAT tools were becoming more and more commonplace. As well as the time-saving and quality benefits of using translation memory tools at a desktop level, the Internet paved the way for enhanced productivity through the real-time sharing of translation assets via server technology. This helped to rapidly accelerate the rate at which content could be localized, enabling organizations to enter new marketplaces and communicate their messaging in the language of their customers.

The new millennium

Despite the arrival of other translation software providers, TRADOS maintained a significant market share within the translation industry into the new millennium. The acquisition of TRADOS by SDL in 2005, enabled the two market leaders to leverage their respective product and technical knowledge to expand functionality and features for their customers.

The product release of SDL Trados 2007 Suite, combined both robust technology built on 25 years work of research and development, with innovative new features, including automated translation (beta), to help further increase speed and productivity within the translation process.

25 years on

2009 saw the launch of the Studio family of SDL Trados products, the next generation in translation memory software which revolutionized the way localization professionals worked. SDL Trados Studio 2009, not only merged the best of TRADOS and SDLX, but this release benefitted from the culmination of 25 years translation software expertise and over $100 million investment in R&D.
SDL Trados at 25 years

2010 to 2013

Following on from the release of SDL Trados Studio 2009, the SDL OpenExchange was launched to industry acclaim as the first application store for the translation industry. SDL OpenExchange is a unique, open industry platform, which enables 3rd party developers and translators to build and market apps and plug-ins, the SDL OpenExchange now has more than 40 apps available to translators.

2010 also saw the release of the next version of SDL Passolo, our award winning software localization tool. Continuing innovation and investment in our award-winning software localization tool. SDL Passolo added better integration with SDL Trados Studio 2009, plus support for machine translation tools such as SDL Language Weaver.

During 2011 the journey of CAT tool evolution continued and SDL Trados Studio 2011. was launched to the market. Based on the revolutionary Studio 2009 version, SDL Trados Studio 2011 transformed how translation and localization professionals translate and review; combining enhancements in the use of translation memory and terminology and offering faster performance, improved productivity and hundreds of refinements to bring the ultimate translation experience.

2013 brought a completely new look and feel to SDL Trados Studio with the release of Studio 2014 into the market in September 2014. Easier, faster, smarter, Studio 2014 introduced an updated user interface, a selection of self-help tools and a new alignment tool. And with a variety of new apps in SDL OpenExchange the functionality is even more extensive – enabling compatibility with third party files types and enhancing reporting and analysis.

2013 also saw the launch of a new version of SDL’s collaborative software, SDL Studio GroupShare. Collaboration across teams and sharing of translation memories and terminology in now easier with the new features of GroupShare 2014. The streamlining of work allocation, notifications and tracking of projects provides support for Project Managers to deliver efficiencies and increases in quality into their business.

30 years of Trados

2014 marked the 30th birthday year of Trados. The brand of Trados was created on 26 September 1984 and over the last 30 years has achieved status as the eponym for computer assisted translation (CAT) tools.

Trados is now a worldwide industry standard and over these 30 years has had many competitors who have tried to emulate the features and functionality of this world class product set.

The innovation in CAT tool product development established by Trados continues today with the SDL Trados Studio capability and further across the evolution of the entire SDL translation productivity product platform.

30 Years of SDL

Next generation translation software

Following on from the 30th Anniversary of Trados, 2015 saw the release of SDL Trados Studio 2015. With a focus on increased personalization and a stunning UI, Studio 2015 once again set the standard of what a CAT Tool should be. Studio 2015 had productivity at the core of the product, which included features such as SDL AutoSuggest 2.0 and Retrofit. With quality becoming more and more of a focus within the industry, Studio 2015 also introduced Translation Quality Assessment (TQA) to measure and score the quality of translations.

2015 also saw the release of SDL Studio GroupShare 2015, giving project managers improved management over how a large number of projects can be handled. The GroupShare REST API was also extended to offer functionality around assignments and developments in the UX made GroupShare easier to work with than ever before.

In early 2016, SDL Passolo 2016 was released. This market leading software localization tool aimed to deliver increased productivity and quality for mobile formats with enhanced support for Android. This new release offered improved project synchronization flows when working with distributed software projects using Passolo 2016 Collaboration Edition and introduced a modern user interface, making it even easier to use.

2016 also introduced the re-branding of SDL OpenExchange to SDL AppStore. Building on the success of SDL OpenExchange, the launch of SDL AppStore offered all SDL customers various ways to extend their software and improve their user experience. 

Later in the year, the SDL Translation Technology Insights Survey was released, with responses collected from 2,784 Freelance Translators, LSPs and Corporations from 115 countries. The survey identified five insights around translation technology trends including quality, productivity, new ways of working, integration and user experience.

In late 2016, SDL Trados Studio 2017 was released with two big new innovations - AdaptiveMT, a self-learning machine translation engine, and upLIFT technology. These transformational technologies help the translation industry keep up with the high demand for quality and productivity. Additional new features included merging segments over hard returns, reversing language pairs and SDL AutoSuggest for Chinese, Japanese and Korean - a CAT Tool first.

In 2017, SDL Studio GroupShare was rebranded to SDL Trados GroupShare 2017. This release brought an exciting range of new features that transformed the way Project Managers managed their workloads. A new online translation editor for easier collaboration was included and the addition of upLIFT technology integrated with GroupShare TMs resulted in GroupShare 2017 being the most advanced GroupShare release yet.

In early 2018, SDL Passolo 2018 launched. The latest release of this award-winning software localization tool offered brand new integrations with SDL Trados Studio and SDL Trados GroupShare, making it much easier for translators to work more effectively on Passolo projects. Deeper connections with SDL MultiTerm improved quality, whilst a new secure connection to the Box platform enabled more efficient, time-saving collaboration.

New Experience. Better Results.

In July 2018, SDL Trados Studio 2019 was released. Designed with user experience at its core, Studio 2019 evolved to bring users a brand new translation experience. 

Studio 2019 introduced ‘Tell Me’, a unique experience for CAT tool users, delivering a simpler, quicker route to find features or settings in a fraction of the time. With clear guidance on demand, Studio 2019 provided users with new ways to learn and discover all of Studio’s powerful features. Studio 2019 offered a redesigned and simplified one-step project management process, more flexible QA management and translation memory improvements. And the first Studio 2019 Service Release delivered additional functionality, such as, enhanced alignment for better TM leverage, improved translation memory matches, simplified terminology management in the cloud, easier reviewing with enhanced Track Changes and improved Translation Quality Assessment (TQA). With all the new features of this latest release, Studio 2019 broke new ground in combining innovation with product usability.

35 years of Trados

In 2019, we celebrate the 35th year of Trados. Innovation has been and will continue to remain at the heart of SDL and what we do. But it is, of course, the needs of our customers that continue to be the driving force behind the innovation that supports the translation process. And reflecting on the past 35 years of Trados, what comes to mind, is the relationships that we have developed with our customers and the opportunities we have had, every day, to interact with this group of talented, passionate and skilled individuals. The support we have had from our customers over the years has allowed us to grow and further enhance the SDL Trados suite of products with the result that they still comprise the industry’s market leading CAT tool solution today.

35 Years of SDL
See more of the last 35 years in our timeline infographic