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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 270,000 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

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

Choose flexibility. Choose Trados.

August 2020 sees the launch of SDL Trados Studio 2021 offering a new and exciting way of working.

Studio 2021 and SDL Trados Live, SDL’s cloud-based platform, combine the power of the desktop CAT tool with the flexibility of the cloud offering the choice to work in the office or on the move. Together they provide a secure connection to cloud-based projects, files and translation resources and the ability to switch between devices. SDL Trados Studio 2021 together with SDL Trados Live introduces flexibility in working practices and new productivity enhancements to the existing Studio experience. With Studio 2021 you can work anywhere, anytime and on any device.

Learn more about SDL Trados Studio 2021

See more of the last 35 years in our timeline infographic