30 years of PowerPoint

30 Years of PowerPoint

We have left 2017 behind us. A year in which we seen Donald Trump take his seat in the white house, Brittan activating article 50 to leave the EU and a certain North Korean citizen dictator decided it was a good idea to play with missiles. But one thing which seems to have slipped under the radar is that in 2017 Microsoft PowerPoint became 30.

Today we are going to look back through the short history of one of the most iconic office programs on the market.

Who created PowerPoint

Robert Gaskins and Dennis Austin were the fathers of PowerPoint. Both worked for the software company called Forethought Inc. Forethought Inc was set up in 1983 by Rob Campbell and Taylor Pohiman. A year later they hired Bob Gaskins who along with Dennis Austin led development of a software program called ‘Presenter’. Later this was renamed as ‘PowerPoint’.

Initially the software was designed to be used solely on Macintosh computers. But three months after it hit the market place Microsoft purchased it for $14 million. Bill Gates was sceptical at first but came around in the end. This was such a big project that Microsoft set up a new business unit.

It eventually became a part of the Office suite, but did not see release on Windows OS until 1990. Since the late 1990’s, PowerPoints market share has claimed to be 95%.

How did PowerPoint evolve

Like everything in life, PowerPoint evolved. It grew from a small idea to a force that has taken over the business world. And not only the business world. The military are relentless power pointers.

But what was it like.

1987 – 1990

The original PowerPoint was only available for Apple Macintosh machines. You could design slides that had text or charts on them, all in black and white. You would then print them out onto white paper. Once this was done you had to transfer them to transparent viewfoil. You could then project these onto a wall using overhead projectors. Powerful and modern stuff for the time.

Within this period, Microsoft released PowerPoint 2.0. You could now use colour, spell check and other word processing features. But this time you could transfer the file via a modem to a Genigraphics film recorder where it could then be shown in the form of a presentation.

1991 – 1995

In 1993, with the release of Windows 3.1. Microsoft released PowerPoint 3. Features added this time around were templates, drawing freeform tool, transitions and sound and video. You can start to see that Microsoft was putting some work into PowerPoint.

In this same period, we seen the release of PowerPoint 4.0 and 7.0. For some reason, they felt that 5.0 and 6.0 were not needed. 7.0 was released in Office for Windows 95.

4.0 brought a similar look and feel to the Office range. Giving Word, Excel and PowerPoint a similar tool bar and tool tips.

7.0 brought some improvements but the biggest thing about 7.0 was the fact it was rewritten in C++.

1996 – 2000

In an era where the internet was going boom. Microsoft had to make sure PowerPoint didn’t get left behind. PowerPoint 8.0 seen the introduction of Office Assistant, file compression and the ability to save to HTML. You could also insert transparent GIF’s.

PowerPoint 9.0 seen the introduction of features which we take for granted these days. Autofit of text, save to web. You could also now insert animated GIF’s. It also introduced the familiar three-pane view we have nowadays. You could see slide miniatures, notes and the single slide being worked on.

2001 – 2005

10.0 and 11.0 seen incremental improvements. 11.0 also seen the removal of the Genigraphics software so you could no longer print to film slides.

2006 and beyond

The world started changing, we were beginning to see the introduction of smartphones. Business was becoming more mobile than ever. Windows had to make sure they were keeping up with the times. Microsoft released Windows RT which made the Office suite available across their mobile software. At the same time, you could also get access to PowerPoint on Android and iOS devices.

The result of 30 years of innovation is that we can now create a presentation on devices people only dreamed of back 30 years ago. You can create a presentation at your desk, on the train or in a plane. Maybe you would like to create them from in front of your TV or lying in bed.  You can, now.

Who uses PowerPoint

This is not the question we should be asking but ‘Who doesn’t use PowerPoint’. PowerPoint has become synonymous with the business world. Accountants delivering end of year results. CEO’s advising their shareholders what the plans are for the next year. Would be entrepreneurs pitching an idea to a group of investors.

Trainers and lecturers use it to pass on knowledge to a sleepy audience.

The military use it for briefings. Providing information about a warzone or target. It is used in worship, prayers and hymns appear on a screen while the congregation read along. Courtrooms display evidence. Web developers prototype in PowerPoint.

Is there an industry that does not use PowerPoint? I find it very hard to believe that there is.

Stigma behind PowerPoint

But as great as PowerPoint is, it has been given a bad reputation by a few. I am not talking about the nay Sayers here, I am talking about the people that fill slides with charts and words. The people that drown on and read from the slides.

You know who they are, they know how they are. It is them that death has now become a descriptive term for PowerPoint. Staff read going to end of year retreats because they know that there is going to be one person who will cause death by PowerPoint.

To this I say, do not blame the tool but the person using the tool.


PowerPoint has been around longer then some who will be reading this and it will live on longer than most of us reading this. It is a tool which has shaped many boardrooms and audiences. It is used in the background and never really seen for what it truly is. A tool to help you convey a message.

We hope you enjoyed this tiny celebration of the last 30 years of PowerPoint. Let us know your thoughts, reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter.

Until next time


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