This website covers topics on knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

History of PowerPoint

Robert Gaskins, inventor of PowerPoint, has a Viewpoint article in the December 2007 Communications of the ACM in which he describes the starting point for PowerPoint 20 years ago: PowerPoint at 20: Back to Basics

Presentations were nothing new when PowerPoint appeared 20 years ago. Most complaints we hear about presentations today were current then, too: ambiguous and repetitive bullet points, speakers reading their slides, no proper audience handouts, and more. PowerPoint didn’t create any of these familiar ways to fall short.

I really like the tone of this article - something between the hysteria about "PowerPoint is evil" and "slide decks for everything."  It's also helpful to hear (again) the business background for the development of PowerPoint.  You had black & white transparencies that were created by copying paper (or printing on a laser printer); colorful, expensive 35mm slides; and the rarely-used, high-power, full multi-media show.  Each of these had their purpose: internal business meetings; sales presentations; fancy & expensive shows.

Of course, PowerPoint has merged a lot of the functionality of these separate activities, and the vast majority of users have not understood the different purposes for the tools within PowerPoint.  Gaskins' general recommendation is to pare things down, as most people who write about this topic.  His conclusion:

Audiences rarely complain about too little embellishment but are easily distracted and offended by too much. When in doubt, increase the quality and density of the content and reduce the level of decoration. The emphasis should be more matter with less art.

On reviewing Robert Gaskins' website, I see there have been a number of "20th Anniversary of PowerPoint" articles.

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