This retrospective on imaging mass spectrometry describes the coming of age of an approach that has matured from an innovative technological development to a broadly applied analytical tool. A look back in time reveals how the breadth of imaging mass spectrometry has expanded from a purely (semiconductor) surface physics field to its recent impact on biomedicine, nanotechnology and culture. The impact of historical milestones in desorption and ionization technologies on the progress in modern multimodal molecular imaging technologies is described and discussed. A concise picture is sketched of the roadmap that contains the key advances in imaging mass spectrometry methods and technologies.