IT with a Human Face: The History of PowerPoint Development

When someone asks you to make a presentation, what do you normally do? In the past, before everyone started to use computers, it normally implied a speech sometimes accompanied by visual objects or charts. Most of the time the audience listened to the speaker and made notes during the presentation. Nowadays, it’s practically impossible to find a speaker without a laptop with their presentation saved as .ppt. (PowerPoint). In fact, “Next slide, please!” is the most repeated phrase during any presentation.

With this knowledge, let’s take a closer look at a “presentation” and try to understand how it became so popular that even children now start using PowerPoint as early as primary school.

PowerPoint is the computer application that helps create multimedia files in the form of slides. The slides accompany a speech and usually include drawings, moving objects, or even video. They really simplify the lives of speakers – they don’t need to look through the text or memorize it; they don’t need to write anything while talking or bring along objects they intend to demonstrate.

Now, PowerPoint is an integral part of any Microsoft Office package, though it didn’t always belong to Microsoft.

Robert GaskinsThe idea of creating a program that would help speakers create their own high quality graphics belongs to a PhD. student from California, Bob Gaskins (on photo), and to developer Dennis Austin. The product they developed got the name “Presenter” and from the very beginning turned to be a real success – it helped speakers highlight important points rather than simply reading a text. The speakers made decisions regarding graphics themselves instead of relying on anyone else’s ideas or vision.

Although it was initially intended for Apple computers, shortly after its release the program was purchased by Microsoft for $14 million and got the name “PowerPoint”, which everyone now associates with presentations.

This is what different versions of PowerPoint looked like:

Every few years developers released updates to existing versions of PowerPoint, and each time this provided an improvement or enhancement to the application. If you use the program today, you can benefit from:

The most recent versions allow the use of PowerPoint designer, which will take your content and suggest a variety of ideas that you can choose for your slide. And a special treat – you can quickly do things with the “Tell me what you want to do” feature. This is a special text field where you can use key phrases in your presentation.

It wouldn’t be all that surprising if before long all you need to do is let the program know the topic of your presentation and the rest would be done automatically. If any developers are reading this, that was a hint for the next version!

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