30 years since PowerPoint was created, but has it aged well?

20 Apr 2017

Image: pan_kung/Shutterstock

In 1987, a new computer programme called Presenter, the precursor to PowerPoint, was born, revolutionising meetings and presentations for decades to come.

Have you ever sat in a meeting room while someone makes an underwhelming presentation, with slide after slide of mundanity?

Robert Gaskins and Dennis Austin are to blame, as the duo behind Presenter, which later became the PowerPoint we all know today.

However, those bland presentations can’t all be pinned down to the pair, whose invention was pretty groundbreaking in the mid-1980s.

Instead, it’s how people have used the tool that is called into question.

“PowerPoint is not magic,” said Gaskins ahead of the software’s 3oth birthday. “It doesn’t automatically improve the thinking or writing of its users. PowerPoint presentations can be as bad as any prose document.” 

Before PowerPoint, creating individual slides or transparencies to show colleagues in meetings could take hours. Digitising the process so that people could properly demonstrate their ideas in a fraction of the time has been hailed as one of the greatest technological achievements of the decade.

Presenter was made for Mac, before branching into Microsoft’s realm, gaining colour and, eventually, dominating offices, colleges and classrooms throughout the world.

With each change came new aspects, with the likes of images, video or other tweaks appearing alongside hardware improvements.

Strangely, support for the tool has never really diminished, despite demographic changes.

An online poll by YouGov showed that 81pc of UK Snapchat users still think PowerPoint is a great tool for making presentations.

“If Microsoft had not kept up steady innovation, PowerPoint would now be as long-forgotten as most of the other products introduced thirty years ago into that very different world,” said Gaskins.

Here’s an infographic detailing the company’s opening three decades, constructed by Glisser, a company that has added one of the more recent strings to PowerPoint’s bow.


Infographic: Glisser

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic