Robert Gaskins: The inventor of PowerPoint

It was the year 1984, a PhD student from Berkeley wanted to create an intuitive, slide-based presentation program. Three years later PowerPoint was born. Robert Gaskins, a computer scientist, created ‘Presenter’ along with Denis Austin & Tom Rudkin in 1984 while working for ‘Forethought’. ‘Presenter’ was originally aimed at removing the need to manually re-type project transparencies and provide an easy solution to make & present slides. The name was later changed to PowerPoint since ‘Presenter’ was already trademarked by a company based in New Jersey. The name ‘PowerPoint’ came into light when Gaskins was taking a shower.

Three years later, in 1987 Apple’s Strategic Investment Group made first-ever venture capital investment in PowerPoint. PowerPoint 1.0 was launched for Mac and was an overnight success. Later Microsoft bought PowerPoint for a whopping USD 14 Million. Robert Gaskins and original founding members were given the charge to head Microsoft’s Graphic Business Unit. In 1988, PowerPoint 2.0 was launched in the market which was a ‘Color PowerPoint’ for Macintosh. The release had a massive 256 colours, supported out of the box graphics tools and bullet points. By 1992, you could use creative PowerPoint templates to create simple yet engaging presentations.


PowerPoint for Windows:


After three years of its acquisition, PowerPoint for Windows PC’s was launched in the market. The product was launched with Windows 3.0. PowerPoint was a part of Microsoft’ Office productivity suite and contained basic features for texts and graphics. It also supported a side sorter for seamless sorting of slide decks. Although initial versions of PowerPoint had low-pixels and pixelated graphics, the software revolutionized the way presentations were done. Fast forward to 1992, PowerPoint 3.0 was launched which caught up well with the growing competition. The new PowerPoint came pre-packed with TrueType font support, beautiful graphs, transition and build effects and some drawing tools. A toolbar with shortcut buttons was also launched with PowerPoint 3.0.


By 1993, Microsoft was annually making USD 100 Million in annual sales from PowerPoint. Where earlier versions of PowerPoint could only make handouts, speaker notes & transparencies, the later versions revolutionized the world with custom animation, encapsulating design and flexibility. With no special programming skills, people were able to craft their ideas into reality. For most people around the world, Windows 95 was their first experience with computers. Windows 95 had superior performance capabilities, a 32-bit coding and improved hardware support. It was the first time an operating system had a recycle bin, taskbar and a start menu.


PowerPoint which came pre-installed with Windows 95 leveraged on the new capabilities of Windows. Now PowerPoint had a slicker interface, presenters could do storytelling for business presentations & were able to export and move their slides across different computers. It led to an era of presentations which continues to dominate the market even today. PowerPoint is still a go-to destination for most of the presentation makers. The PowerPoint which we see today is a powerful and reformed over timepiece of software. In its three decades of journey, PowerPoint has secured its place in almost every organization across the globe.


PowerPoint and presentation design:


As we all know PowerPoint comes bundled with built-in templates. Since PowerPoint has been a huge success worldwide, people often end up using the same template again and again which makes the presentation ordinary. Chances are high that your audience has already seen the same presentation design, animations someplace else. The challenge is to express something which is undeniably you, with a limited number of resources. One size doesn’t fit all, presentations can’t have the same design and feel over and over again. This kills the audience interest and has led to a phenomenon called ‘Death by PowerPoint’. With the advent of the latest design technologies, using decades-old templates can make the presentation look obsolete.

PowerPoint templates:


Today, the market is flooded with specifically tailored templates that let you create amazing and quick presentations. Entrepreneurs and small business owners have so much to do already. Creating an entire presentation right from scratch requires a knack for design which everybody doesn’t have. Today, you can find a template and import the same in PowerPoint easily. The template helps presenters save huge on time, provides consistent & captivating design, enhances branding and offers presenters ease of formatting. The right template can be a game-changer for businesses. It will let entrepreneurs communicate the company’s vision, mission, processes in a simplistic yet engaging manner.


Companies have started using PowerPoint presentations for building brand awareness. Gone are the days when presentations were confined to board meetings. PowerPoint presentations today are used as initial touch-points with potential leads, clients, stakeholders and customers. For those who are always on the go, PowerPoint templates are super convenient. Like mentioned above, templates offer the much-needed consistency to your presentation. No one likes slides with a hodgepodge of different animations, visuals and styles. The template helps you align your thoughts and avoid jarring transitions. It is only then you can come up with presentations that woo the audience.


Since its inception, PowerPoint has had a huge cultural impact. The software has put users first and has given them the ability to save time, effort and innovate with their thoughts. There might be several high-potential presentation software such as Google Slides, Keynote or Prezi today in the market. PowerPoint continues to dominate the market with a huge market share. The software took away complexities and provided design agility to everyone. Today, PowerPoint is used in global businesses, universities, schools, start-ups, government offices and where not!


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