We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

Happy 25th birthday, PowerPoint!

PowerPoint boxYou probably missed it. Hell, I missed it (because it happened 5 days ago), but Microsoft PowerPoint is 25 years old.

Just a couple of days after the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles the first version of the now ubiquitous presentation software was dreamt up by Robert Gaskins and Dennis Austin. On 14 August 1984 these (almost certainly heavily bearded) men wrote a proposal for what would become a byword for business, briefings and boredom for decades to come.

(That was some day in software history. At that very same moment in time Microsoft announced that IBM had chosen its XENIX and MS-DOS for its new generation personal computer, the IBM PC AT. Oh, to have a beard and live in America that day!)

Gaskins - now more involved in curating concertina exhibitions - and Dennis Austin worked for Forethought, Inc. of Sunnyvale, California.

Microsoft Office 2010 review

The initial release was called Presentation but was renamed PowerPoint due to trademark problems.

It was originally designed for Apple's new Macintosh computer, and the first version shipped in April 1987. Yes, Mac aesthetes got their hands on the clip-art-eating monster long before the dull suits using DOS and Windows got their pointers out.

PowerPoint 1.0 screenshot

In 1987 Microsoft bought Forethought for $14m. It was Microsoft's first significant acquisition, and the company was turned into Microsoft's Graphics Business Unit.

In August of the same year, Forethought was bought by Microsoft for $14m, and continued to develop the software.

The New York Times reported the acquisition, describing Powerpoint as software "that allows users of Apple Macintosh computers to make overhead transparencies or flip charts. Some industry officials think such ‘desktop presentations' have the potential to be as big a market as ‘desktop publishing,' which involves using computers to lay out newsletters and other publications. Microsoft is already the leading software supplier for the Macintosh."

Early history of PowerPoint, edited from Gaskin's own website and "PowerPoint at 20" essay:

PowerPoint 1.0 (for Mac, April 1987) produced as output black-and-white overhead transparencies (together with speaker's notes and audience handouts). Charts and diagrams could be imported from MacDraw, MacPaint, and Excel, thanks to the new Mac clipboard.

PowerPoint 2.0 for Mac advert

PowerPoint 2.0 (for Mac, May 1988, and for Windows, May 1990) added output of professional 35mm colour slides including online transmission to overnight imaging and processing by Genigraphics.

PowerPoint 3.0 (for Windows, May 1992, and for Mac, September 1992) added output of live video colour slideshows including slide transitions, builds, animations, and synchronized sound and video clips.

These first three PowerPoint versions completed the basic product functionality, which has been refined in further releases since then.

They were shipped in over two dozen national languages, and won scores of awards worldwide.

Sales grew steadily to a 1992 market share of 63% of presentation graphics software sales on Windows and Mac worldwide against seventeen competitors, with sales of over one million copies of PowerPoint per year (1992).

PowerPoint revenues grew on my watch to well over $100 million annually (in 1992), about half from outside the US.

By 2003 PowerPoint revenues for Microsoft exceeded $1 billion annually. By then PowerPoint was being used by over 500 million people worldwide, with over 30 million PowerPoint presentations being made every day.

PowerPoint 2010

PowerPoint was packaged and sold as a stand-alone product prior to the creation of Microsoft Office, which began (in 1989 for Mac and in 1990 for Windows) as a transparent overwrap around the separately manufactured boxes of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Only after the success of the physical bundle were the three applications progressively revised to work more alike, provided with a single install program, and packaged together (as well as sold separately).

So Happy Birthday, idea of PowerPoint. You have your enemies (mainly those of us who have to sit through endless presentations) and your friends (people without that much to say during their presentations), but the business world would be stuck with dusty overhead projections without you.

IDG UK Sites

iPhone 6 release date, price, specs and new features: Invite confirms 9 September launch

IDG UK Sites

Nostalgia time: Top 10 best selling mobile phones in history

IDG UK Sites

How Ford designs next-generation cars at its Melbourne Design Centre

IDG UK Sites

iPhone 6 release date, rumours, video, UK price & images: iPhone launch event confirmed for 9...