Power Point Turns 20

Lee Gomes brings Power Point into focus for readers of the WSJ’s Career Journal.

Robert Gaskins was the visionary entrepreneur who in the mid-1980s realized that the huge but largely invisible market for preparing business slides was a perfect match for the coming generation of graphics-oriented computers.
With major programming done by Dennis Austin, an old chum, PowerPoint 1.0 for Macs came out in 1987. Later that year, Microsoft bought the company for $14 million, its first acquisition, and three years later a Windows version followed.
Mr. Gaskins and Mr. Austin, now 63 and 60, respectively, reflected on PowerPoint’s creation and its current omnipresence in an interview last week. They are intensely proud of their technical and strategic successes. But to a striking degree, they aren’t the least bit defensive about the criticisms routinely heard of PowerPoint.
Perhaps the most scathing criticism comes from the Yale graphics guru Edward Tufte, who says the software “elevates format over content, betraying an attitude of commercialism that turns everything into a sales pitch.” He even suggested PowerPoint played a role in the Columbia shuttle disaster, as some vital technical news was buried in an otherwise upbeat slide.
No quarrel from Mr. Gaskins: “All the things Tufte says are absolutely true. People often make very bad use of PowerPoint.”

I wonder what Gaskins and Austin think of SlideShare.

About David Burn

Fired up to write it down. Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. Chief storyteller at Bonehook, a guide service and bait shop for brands.