2017: 25th Anniversary of PowerPoint 3.0
PowerPoint 3.0 was created at Microsoft's Graphics Business Unit in Silicon Valley over the five years 1987‒1992, where I was
the head of the new Microsoft group during that entire period.
The Windows version shipped in May 1992 (announced on the same day as Windows 3.1) and the Macintosh version in September 1992.
Following on some interim releases, PowerPoint 3.0 marked the completion of the full original product vision,
and turned out to be the basis for continued evolution—so far, over the last twenty-five years.
PowerPoint 3.0 was localized into all major languages very rapidly, and soon became the international standard for presentations;
it quickly achieved a dominant market share worldwide, which has been maintained ever since.
The core team that created PowerPoint 3.0 in 1992
(mouse over photo to enlarge)
This picture was taken in the lobby of the Microsoft Graphics Business Unit building in Silicon Valley, at 2460 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, California,
in the hills above Stanford.
The artwork glimpsed to the left of the group is Giufà, la luna, i ladri e le guardie, 4X (1984), by Frank Stella, mixed media on canvas, etched magnesium, aluminum,
and fiberglass, now in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. To the right is Untitled (1981), by Charles Arnoldi, acrylic paint on tree branches,
now in the Anderson Collection at Stanford University. These were just two out of more than a hundred important contemporary artworks (valued even then at over $100 million)
which were on display in the Graphic Business Unit’s offices, and lent an appropriate dynamism to our public areas and conference rooms.
Pictured, identified by order of joining:
(1) Bob Gaskins 7/5/84, (2) Dennis Austin 10/22/84,
(3) Tom Rudkin 5/1/86, (6) Kathi Baker 2/28/87,
(8) Aniko Somogyi 8/10/87, (9) Dennis Abbe 10/26/87,
(11) Bob Lagier 12/16/87, (13) Tuan Nguyen 3/14/88,
(14) Bob Safir 3/14/88, (15) Rick Hawes 3/28/88,
(17) Judea Eden 7/18/88, (18) Ron Ullmann 8/15/88,
(19) Don Miller 10/3/88, (20) Barb Jernigan 10/24/88,
(21) Ralph Peterson 12/5/88, (22) Nelia Craig 1/24/89,
(23) Lynette Moore 2/6/89, (24) Andre Brogli 3/1/89,
(26) Connie Clark 3/13/89, (28) Cathy Harris [Belleville] 6/19/89,
(29) Dave Parker 6/19/89, (31) Charleen Mininfield 7/10/89,
(32) Lucy Peterson 10/23/89, (33) Kathleen Richards 11/6/89,
(34) Nola Donato 11/27/89, (35) Darrell Boyle 3/21/90 [also pre-1.0],
(36) Kathy Friend 4/4/90, (37) Linda Fitzgerald 6/20/90,
(39) Jim Bartram 7/15/90, (40) Laura Tillett 7/23/90,
(41) Paul Warrin 8/6/90, (42) Yalin Chen 9/14/90,
(43) Bethann Martin 9/14/90, (44) Bruce Lee 10/1/90,
(45) Amy Whitehurst 10/26/90, (46) Cindy Goral 11/8/90,
(47) Bronwen Boynton [Martin] 11/8/90, (48) Alice Wang 12/3/90,
(49) Eunice Yan 1/2/91, (50) Pierre Aoun 1/7/91,
(51) Dan Hoffmann 2/4/91, (52) Anders Kierulf 2/19/91,
(53) Kim Kinzie 2/19/91, (54) Starlene Burgett 2/19/91.
(12) Sharon Meyers 1/25/88, (55) Dave Kesterson 4/19/91,
(56) Millani Lew 6/24/91, (57) Brendan Busch 7/1/91,
(58) Christoph Ammann 9/2/91, (59) Sue Ann Pratt 9/9/91,
(60) Annette Kronmiller 9/19/91, (62) Glenn Hobin 10/21/91 [also pre-1.0],
(63) Roz Ho 10/23/91, (65) George Santino 10/31/91,
(66) Brian Jackson 11/25/91, (67) Dorothy Adams 12/20/91,
(69) Hannes Ruescher 8/12/92, (v) Judith Maurier (Publishing Power),
(v) Sandy Beetner (Genigraphics), (v) Rosemary Abowd [Schwendler] (Genigraphics).
Update: A reader familiar with the team writes to point out that, out of the list of 60 names above,
41 people were in technical engineering positions
(development, program management, or quality assurance): 22 men (54%) and 19 women (46%).
The reader notes: “That was a very unusual balance in 1992, and would still be unusual today.”
The long-term success of PowerPoint is based on the foundation of PowerPoint 3.0, but of course it has depended on many people beyond the core team.
When PowerPoint 3.0 was under development at the Graphics Business Unit, it also relied
on contract publication designers, artists, and writers from Publishing Power;
on contract designers, artists, and testers from Genigraphics;
on contract engineering from Bear River Associates and testing laboratories;
and on hundreds of people in functional groups at Microsoft headquarters and at the international subsidiaries.
Over the following twenty-five years, it has depended on the continuing superior efforts of thousands of other Microsoft people,
who have improved PowerPoint and renewed it through the appearance of new platforms and repeated technological revolutions.
If the PowerPoint product had been ignored and allowed to become obsolete,
it would now be as long-forgotten as most of the other products introduced twenty-five years ago into that very different world.
2012: 25th Anniversary of PowerPoint 1.0
PowerPoint 1.0 was created at the startup Forethought, Inc., in Silicon Valley over the three years 1984‒1987, where I invented
the idea and managed its design and development.
Although initially planned for Windows, the first version was shipped for Macintosh on 20 April 1987.
During its development, PowerPoint attracted the first venture capital investment ever made by Apple, and then soon after shipping
it became the first significant acquisition ever made by Microsoft, who set up a new Graphics Business Unit in Silicon Valley
to develop it further. The small group of creators from the startup joined Microsoft and continued their work on PowerPoint,
aiming to complete the full product vision which couldn’t be included in the first release.
PowerPoint Quadranscentennial Reunion, 8 May 2012
Dennis Austin, Jan Austin, Leanna Gaskins,
Jann Rudkin, Bob Gaskins, Tom Rudkin
Notes about Inventing PowerPoint
“PowerPoint was the first presentation software designed for Macintosh and
Windows, received the first venture capital investment ever made by Apple, then
became the first significant acquisition ever made by Microsoft, and is now,
twenty-five years later, installed on over one billion computers worldwide.”
“Robert Gaskins (who invented the idea, managed its design and development,
and then headed the new Microsoft group) has written this book to commemorate
the twenty-fifth anniversary of PowerPoint, recounting stories of the perils
narrowly evaded as a startup, dissecting the complexities of being the first
distant development group in Microsoft, and explaining decisions and insights
that enabled PowerPoint to become a lasting success.”
Published by Vinland Books 2012,
Hardcover 6" × 9", 512 pp., $35.00
Full PDF searchable, 512 pp., Free
Paperback 6" × 9", 512 pp., $17.99
Ebook for Kindle (all platforms), $2.99
Ebook EPUB (Google, Apple, Nook), $2.99
Where to Buy
Hardcover and paperback formats are available worldwide at
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shipping to over 100 countries.
Ebook formats are available worldwide through Amazon Kindle stores
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and Apple iTunes stores
Full PDF format (fully searchable and with links to references) is available worldwide for free download here,
PowerPoint 1.0 for Macintosh 1987
T-Shirt 25 Year Re-Issue
The original pre-Microsoft packaging for PowerPoint 1.0 for Macintosh,
as shipped by Forethought on 20 April 1987. Now re-issued as a T-shirt for the
25th anniversary of PowerPoint.
T-shirts by American Apparel;
choose any of 21 T-shirt colors, light or dark, in
sizes and styles for men and women. High quality printing by RedBubble.
Order from RedBubble for $20.98
plus shipping, available worldwide.
PowerPoint 1.0 for Macintosh 1987
The original pre-Microsoft packaging for PowerPoint 1.0 for Macintosh,
as shipped by Forethought on 20 April 1987. Now re-issued as a tote bag for the
25th anniversary of PowerPoint.
Choice of sizes, 13 inches (330mm) square, or 16 inches (405mm) square. Same image available as throw pillows, 16 inches (405mm) square, 18 inches (460mm) square, or
20 inches (510mm) square. High quality printing by RedBubble.
Order from RedBubble for $18.97
plus shipping, available worldwide.
Want a signed copy of the book? You can get a free personalized bookplate,
hand-signed by the author, to be pasted into your book. Just send an email note and request
to , and include
(1) the name and address to which you want the bookplate sent, and (2) if you’d like any (necessarily brief) inscription.
New PowerPoint documents on the web.
The book Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint cites and quotes from a number of previously unpublished documents,
mostly written during the early development of PowerPoint and during the acquisition negotiations with Microsoft.
Nearly all of these private documents are now on the web, in searchable PDF format, along with the full text of the book, also searchable and with hyperlinks.
unpublished documents from PowerPoint history.
||Studied and practiced computer science, especially applications to research
in humanities (literature, art, music) and linguistics, at UC Berkeley|
||Set up and managed a new computer science research section for an
international telecommunications R&D laboratory near Stanford|
||Invented PowerPoint, the first product to attract strategic venture capital
from Apple and later the first significant acquisition made by Microsoft|
||Headed Microsoft’s business unit in Silicon Valley, managing the growth of
PowerPoint to $100 million annual sales worldwide on Mac and Windows|
||Retired, moved to London, restored a historic home in Westminster, researched
music history in British libraries and museums, studied the concertina.
Created authoritative websites about concertina history to draw together
current research, after 10 years moved back (mostly) to San Francisco|
|San Francisco and London
|Retired ||March 1993—
Soon after I retired, my wife and I moved to London, where we fully restored an 1890 Victorian “mansion flat”
in central London close by Buckingham Palace and № 10 Downing Street (pictures). I became interested in the concertina,
the only native English musical instrument and the high-tech musical sensation of the Victorian age, and
learned how to play antique examples of the Maccann duet concertina, a nearly forgotten late-Victorian refinement.
I studied its history, did extensive research at British research libraries and museums, and published research articles. Life member of
the London Library.
I’ve recently built an authoritative reference library website at www.concertina.com which has gradually expanded to present the work of
over a dozen leading scholars plus that of many occasional contributors and collections of historical documents.
At the same time, I carried out a project for the Horniman Museum in London to digitize parts of their concertina history archives,
now free online at www.horniman.info.
The Concertina Research Forum was founded to facilitate interaction among researchers, and I hosted an international meeting of
the CRF in London (June 2002). The BBC World Service consulted me as a principal resource for the programme
“The Concertina Man” (September 2004)
to commemorate the bicentenary of Sir Charles Wheatstone’s birth.
I was elected an Honorary Life Member of the International
Concertina Association, London, in November 2005.
We lived most of each year in London for ten years (1994–2004), then moved back to live full-time in our 1882 Victorian
house in San Francisco that we had purchased in 1987.
- Concertina Library,
Documents for the study of English, Anglo, and Duet concertinas: history, instruction books, sheet music, patents,
technical papers, rare periodicals, and new research by many leading scholars. Full texts to read, download, and print.
See also: recent articles by Robert Gaskins.
| Menlo Park, California
|Director & General Manager, Graphics Business Unit || July 1987—March 1993
As the creator of PowerPoint I joined Microsoft to be the head of its newly-acquired Graphics Business Unit
(GBU), the first business unit outside Redmond, reporting to Bill Gates (later to the innovative manager
I retained full P&L responsibility, with local control of product strategy, budgets, facilities, recruiting,
compensation, capital equipment, software development, development tools, quality assurance, marketing, advertising,
PR, manuals, internationalization, and worldwide sales liaison. We continued working in the style of a startup and at
the same intensity for as long as I was there, through the first three generations of PowerPoint.
“Now the person making
the presentation can
make the presentation.”
PowerPoint 1.0 (for Mac, April 1987) produced as output black-and-white overhead transparencies (together
with speaker’s notes and audience handouts). PowerPoint 2.0 (for Mac, May 1988, and for Windows, May 1990)
added output of professional 35mm color 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 color 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 U.S. We were one of the most profitable units at Microsoft, earning an operating profit margin
of 48% of revenues (Microsoft’s operating margin for the same period was 35%, the software industry
average was 11%). After I left, others from the original team continued working and ten years
later, by 2003, PowerPoint revenues for Microsoft exceded $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. In 2010, Microsoft announced that PowerPoint was installed on over a billion computers worldwide.
Microsoft Applications Division
Senior Management, c. 1989
Seated, from left:
Jeff Raikes, Bob Gaskins,
Pete Higgins, Mike Maples,
Susan Boeschen, Tandy Trower
Standing, from left:
Charles Stevens, Peter Morse
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). Still later the parts of Office began to be specified and developed as an integrated product,
with advantages both to users and to Microsoft. It was this innovation that also required changes to the Microsoft
organization, away from the loosely-coupled confederation of independent application business units.
While I headed the Graphics Business Unit we grew from 7 people to nearly 100 people, (about 70 employees and 30
vendor personnel). Microsoft grew from about 1,200 people to 12,000 during the same period.
As with any startup, credit for the long-term success of PowerPoint is due to those who were
there early to set the direction; the “Wizards of Menlo Park,” the 119 people who worked on PowerPoint from the beginning till the end of the years on Sand Hill Road
(1984 to 1994), are listed as “all the wizards in order of appearance” in the
GBU Tenth Anniversary of PPT 1.0 document.
The full story of PowerPoint is chronicled in the book Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint,
by Robert Gaskins (Vinland Books: 2012). This book was written to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of PowerPoint,
recounting stories of the perils narrowly evaded as a startup, dissecting the complexities of being the first distant development group in Microsoft,
and explaining decisions and insights that enabled PowerPoint to become a lasting success.
PowerPoint has been frequently profiled in the media, most notably by Lee Gomes in his
column for The Wall Street Journal to
mark the 20-year anniversary of PowerPoint (June 2007). This was followed by an official
celebration at Microsoft, and led to
a column in Communications of the ACM which
included some PowerPoint history. A very good account including live recorded interviews is by Peter Day
and Neil Koenig in a radio programme
(transcript) for BBC Radio 4 “In Business” and
the BBC World Service (February 2002). For the German business magazine Brand Eins, Steffan Heuer
interviewed the “revolutionaries of office software”:
Charles Simonyi for Word, Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston for VisiCalc, and Bob Gaskins and Dennis Austin
for PowerPoint (Issue 3, 2002). The New York Times reported
the details of Microsoft’s purchase of Forethought (July 1987). Many of the early PowerPoint project documents
used as source materials for these articles and programmes are now archived online for public access; the documents
are described and linked in a box in the column to the
right. Further press coverage is linked in a box
a bit further down in the same column.
| Sunnyvale, California
|Vice President, Product Development || July 1984—July 1987
I joined Forethought when it was a year-old startup that had stalled out and was looking to do a re-start
around some new business plan, the focus of which soon turned out to be my PowerPoint idea.
I had responsibility for our product strategy, all development, product marketing, publications, and manufacturing.
Within a month I had written the
PowerPoint description, the first of a succession of
marketing documents refining the PowerPoint product definition. A couple of months later I was able to recruit
Dennis Austin (from
Gavilan and before that Burroughs)
to head the software design and development for PowerPoint. About eighteen months later we attracted
Tom Rudkin (from
VisiOn and before that Intel)
to head the work on a future Windows version of what was being designed and implemented first for Macintosh.
We raised about $3 million in new money for the re-start from top-tier venture capital investors led by
New Enterprise Associates
and Tom McConnell)
and Lamoreaux Partners (Phil Lamoreaux),
plus Abingworth plc (U.K.)
and the very first venture investment ever made by Apple Computer’s strategic investment group
An outside board member was
Bob Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet and chairman of 3Com.
While we developed Powerpoint, our company operations were simultaneously built up by contract publishing and
selling of software belonging to other developers, so that we were ready and able to sell and ship over $1 million worth of
PowerPoint on the day of its initial release—unprecedented for a Macintosh application. Three months later,
PowerPoint history was sharply changed by an offer from Bill Gates to buy PowerPoint and to turn Forethought into
Microsoft’s Graphics Business Unit, to be located in Silicon Valley. The offer was orchestrated by Jeff Raikes,
who had managed to convince Bill that presentations would become a major application category and that just adding
a feature to format Word outlines on overheads (Bill’s first thought, according to Jeff) would not be competitive.
We accepted the offer and became Microsoft’s first significant acquisition. The price was $14 million in cash,
which returned $12 million to our investors in under three years. I and all the rest of the PowerPoint people,
plus many of our other Forethought employees, became Microsoft employees, just a year or so after the Microsoft IPO.
The New York Times reported on 31 July 1987:
Microsoft Buys Software Unit
special to the new york times
The Microsoft Corporation announced its first significant software acquisition today,
paying $14 million for Forethought Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif.
Forethought makes a program called Powerpoint 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.
The personal software industry has been buzzing with acquisitions lately. Microsoft has
purchased a 10-employee Berkeley company called Dynamical Systems and has invested in
another company, Natural Language Inc. But the acquisition of Forethought is the first
significant one for Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Wash. Forethought would remain in
Sunnyvale, giving Microsoft a Silicon Valley presence. The unit will be headed by
Robert Gaskins, Forethought’s vice president of product development.
Microsoft’s first presence in Silicon Valley, in 1987: 250 Sobrante Way, Sunnyvale, the
circa-1950 tilt-up which had housed our former Forethought startup. This building featured windows
so narrow that they had apparently been designed as arrow slits, through which we could shoot our
defensive crossbows against attackers.
The decision to be acquired, rather than to pursue an IPO already underway, was not easy at the time
(though after the stock market crash on “Black Monday” three months later, it appeared brilliant).
One hopeful sign in favor of joining Microsoft was that, where other potential acquirors had sent accountants
to do due diligence by reading our bank statements and interviewing our bookkeeper, Microsoft instead
sent Dave Moore to actually read through the text of all our program source code and to interview our developers.
Fortunately Microsoft turned out to be an excellent fit, and our group remained intact and maintained an
amazing degree of organizational independence within Microsoft for as long as that made sense.
Northern Telecom Systems Corporation (Europe)
| London, England
|Product Marketing Consultant, “Project Vienna” || March 1983—July 1984
At Bell Northern Research I had spent six months commuting to Minneapolis for meetings of a small
strategy group (codename “Anpac”) to decide the global Northern Telecom Ltd. response
to personal computers—first to the early Apple ][ and IBM PC,
but more importantly to what we saw as the near future, networks of graphical personal computers
such as my group had been experimenting with at BNR. After that I volunteered to join the leaders
of a European subsidiary team for a crunch project to create and ship a line of networked personal
computer and server products, hardware and software, designed for 9 languages. Within 14 months we shipped
the first Intel-286–based personal computers in Europe, based on Microsoft system and application
software (which was how I came to know Bill Gates).
Based on my experiences traveling around the world for this project and receiving hundreds of presentations
from people who used overheads and slides and flipcharts (a few made on computers, most not),
I began to think about the possibility of a new application to make presentations using the then-undelivered
future graphical personal computers such as Macintosh and Windows—the idea which would later be the basis
Bell Northern Research, Inc.
| Palo Alto, California
|Manager, Computer Science Research || May 1978—July 1984
For my first job out of school, I set up a new department at the principal U.S. R&D laboratories of Bell Northern Research, the
product development affiliate for Bell Canada and Northern Telecom, Ltd. (much later NorTel Networks),
just across the road from Xerox PARC at Stanford. I initiated and managed research and advanced development
activities in many fields of computer science and communications, with members of my department focusing on
networks of personal computers (using a PDP-10 on ARPAnet, plus Three Rivers’ PERQs and Wirth’s Lilith);
graphical user interfaces; digital typesetting; object-oriented systems and programming (Intel iAPX-432 systems, Smalltalk);
digital voice-over-IP LANs; SGML (later XML); and extensive research on public-key cryptosystems.
I headed the laboratory’s university liaison program, funding external university research programs ranging from
computer system architecture to extending Donald Knuth’s
program for typesetting Arabic scripts.
| Sausalito, California
In 1984 I was one of about 150 people chosen to spend the whole weekend of November 9–11
at the world’s most beautiful repurposed 16-inch gun battery
on the Marin headlands just north of the Golden Gate, attending the original
This meet-up was initiated by Kevin Kelly and Stewart Brand, and designed by Lee Felsenstein,
Bill Budge, Andy Hertzfeld, and Doug Carlston, timed to coincide with the publication of Steven Levy’s book
Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution.
Stewart Brand claimed that the invitees were “the most interesting and effective body of
intellectuals since the framers of the U.S. Constitution,” a claim that escaped criticism from those attending.
Invitees paid a flat $90 for the weekend, including conference, round-the-clock food and drink, and dormitory bunks.
Steve Wozniak donated $5,000 for videotaping, and scraps of footage from the weekend later became a
DVD. The t-shirt design was by Don Knuth’s student
Western Institute of Computer Science
| Santa Cruz, California
In 1979 (after I had joined Bell Northern Research) I attended the International Course in
Programming Methodology, an advanced course in programming taught by Edsger W. Dijkstra,
followed by a course of forty-nine lectures from Dijkstra, C. A. R. Hoare, Ole-Johan Dahl,
John Backus, David Gries, and over twenty additional members of
IFIP WG 2.3.
Four-week residential course, held on the campus of the University of California at Santa Cruz,
Dijkstra recorded his own thoughts about the course in his contemporaneous typescript
“trip report” (EWD 714) now archived online at the
University of Texas: “I found the UCSC [UC Santa Cruz] campus not an inspiring place,
and the longer I stayed there, the more depressing it became.
… We had to share the food—and what was worse:
also the space in which to consume it—with the participants in other ‘educational’
activities—such as a cheer-leaders school and a school of American football
… In short: the place breathed an atmosphere of uncivilization.”
“The audience was of a higher calibre than we had been led to expect
… eight people from various Bell Laboratories
… 30 to 40 per cent. could only be described as mathematical illiterates
… .” “… my overwhelming memory from
this WG2.3 meeting is the very lousy impression I got from Xerox PARC
… [a place where] research in computing science is primarily viewed as gadget
development, rather than as gaining insight.”
Twenty-two years after this, Dijkstra was still using a pen to write his own overhead “foils” (transparencies)
in his distinctive handwriting, and was thoroughly disapproving of how others had come to use PowerPoint.
From another trip report (EWD 1310):
[Preparing to receive an honorary doctorate in Athens, May 2001] “Fortunately I had discovered
in time that I had left my prepared foils in Nuenen and the University had provided me with
blank ones and pens. I used Wednesday’s free moments to make new ones.” [And a month later, June 2001,
after appearing at a “Software Pioneers” conference in Bonn that featured 16 speakers] “I mention another
way of looking at the whole happening, viz. regarding it as a 16-fold confirmation
of the ruinous influence of PowerPoint, for the less of it you use, the better your lecture.
… The bloody electronics only encourage the next steps of the replacement of content by
form … .”
|University of California, Berkeley || Berkeley, California
| July 1973—May 1978
Co-author of a textbook
on programming for linguistic and humanities research,
used in courses at Berkeley and Stanford and in summer sessions for college teachers in the humanities organized
by the American Council of Learned Societies. Extensive consulting with faculty members on the use of
computers to study literature, languages, arts, and music. Graphics consultant for the Berkeley Campus
Computer Center. Chief programmer for Berkeley machine translation research (Chinese to English).
Programmer of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic fonts and typesetting for the
Berkeley Late Egyptian Dictionary. Wrote a program to generate haiku which was embedded in the idle loop
of a campus CDC6400 and became the most prolific poet up till that date, selection published in an
anthology of computer poetry edited by Richard W. Bailey (Computer Poems, 1973). Many more projects
in graphics and natural language.
University of California, Berkeley
| Berkeley, California
M.A. 1973, in Computer Science, Linguistics, and English,
University of California, Berkeley,
Career Fellowship, Ford Foundation, 1968–1973.
University of Southern California
| Los Angeles, California
A.B. 1968, in English Literature,
University of Southern California,
to Phi Beta Kappa,
Order of the Palm award at graduation.
A survey of the state of Desktop Presentation software in 1989. This part I, for Macintosh,
includes a demo of PowerPoint 2.0 (at 09:15), presented by the GBU’s Connie Clark (Wizard #26) who demonstrates
how PowerPoint differed from its competitors, represented here by MORE II, Aldus Persuasion 2.0, and Macromind Director.
An episode of the "Computer Chronicles" television series, hosted by Stewart Cheifet and Gary Kildall.
Link to video at Internet Archive
A survey of the state of Desktop Presentation software in 1989; this is part II, for IBM PC.
PowerPoint had not yet been released for Windows, so this survey documents its competitors who would be dramatically disrupted the following year. The old guard is represented here by
Harvard Graphics 2.12, Draw Partner, Freelance Plus 3.01, Graph Plus 1.3, Storyboard Plus 2.0, GEM Presentation 1.1, AutoDesk Animator, and Xerox Presents. (Some of these are on
Windows 2.0, illustrating why we considered it unacceptable for PowerPoint.) An episode of the "Computer Chronicles" television series, hosted by Stewart Cheifet and Gary Kildall.
Link to video at Internet Archive
A survey of Windows 3.0 and its competitors in October 1990. The Windows 3.0 demo includes (at 19:30) a demo
of PowerPoint 2.0, presented by the GBU’s Cathy Harris (Wizard #28) who demonstrates
how PowerPoint for Windows is virtually identical to PowerPoint on Macintosh. (This is a good example of how the major 3.0 upgrade to
Windows was introduced by using PowerPoint 2.0 demos to show off that Windows had finally caught up to Mac.) Other systems
include DR-DOS 5.0 and GEM from Digital Research, GEOS and Ensemble from GeoWorks, and ViewMax.
An episode of the "Computer Chronicles" television series, hosted by Stewart Cheifet and Gary Kildall.
Link to video at Internet Archive
Comedy videos to punctuate Microsoft company meetings were made by individual business units
using strictly internal resources and talent (and amusing only to insiders).
This one was shot in 1992 with cast and crew of GBU Wizards at our “Sand Hill Road Studios” in sunny California
for a large Apps Division meeting to be held in rainy Redmond.
Written, produced, and directed by Robert Safir, GBU Wizard #14.
“An ode to our favorite office presentation program …
made using said program.”
Words by Suite Dreams
(Sara Schaefer and Erik Marcisak)
Vocals by Cock Lorge
Edited by Sara Schaefer
“Don McMillan gives a short comedy sketch around PowerPoint presentations and the common mistakes that people make.”
Don believes that he is
“the only comedian working in PowerPoint”;
that’s clearly not true (every day you see quite a few in random meetings), but he’s certainly a lot funnier than
the other ones.
Delivered as the keynote speech at the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, 4 October 2007, Sanders Theater, Harvard, and previously published in the
Annals of Improbable Research, vol. 12 no. 5 (September-October 2006).
A PDF of the article is available.
Presented at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences [AAAS] humor session, 16 February, 2007.
Flatland, by Edwin A. Abbott [A. Square, pseud.], 1884.
(Original publication digitized.)
“Because (almost) all of the characters in Flatland are two-dimensional geometric shapes,
PowerPoint actually seemed like a natural tool to use to tell the tale in a more visual
way to a modern audience.” (Not a video, but a PPT presentation—39 MB.)
Remix/Design/Score by Zeus Jones
Robert Gaskins invented PowerPoint. He managed its design and development at a startup,
where the idea attracted the first venture capital investment ever made by Apple Computer.
PowerPoint was released for Macintosh in 1987, and soon afterward,
it became the first significant acquisition ever made by Microsoft,
who set up a new business unit in Silicon Valley to develop it further.
He headed this new Microsoft group for another five years,
completing versions of the PowerPoint product
which contributed to the explosive early growth of Microsoft Windows
and to the dominance of Microsoft Office.
- The Wall Street Journal.
PowerPoint Turns 20,
As Its Creators Ponder
A Dark Side to Success
Lee Gomes, in his “Portals” column for The Wall Street Journal,
talks with Bob Gaskins and Dennis Austin about how they created PowerPoint,
and how they respond now to criticisms of the way it is being used
(The Wall Street Journal, US edition, page B1, 20 June 2007)
“ … the culture of PowerPoint is something that bemuses, concerns and occasionally
appalls PowerPoint’s two creators as much as it does everyone else.”
Also in the WSJ Chinese:
“ 罗伯特•加斯金斯(Robert Gaskins)是一位具有远见卓识的企业家。
“Robert Gaskins was the visionary entrepreneur who in the mid-1980s realized that the huge but largely
invisible market for preparing business slides was a perfect match for the coming generation of graphics-oriented computers.”
Microsoft’s 20-Year PPT Party
Microsoft’s celebration for all the people currently working on the PowerPoint team was held at the Silicon Valley Campus
on 17 August 2007. The photo shows special guests Tom Rudkin, Bob Gaskins, and Dennis Austin (L. to R., GBU Wizards
#3, #1, and #2) collaborating to solve how to divide a cake into 200 equal portions; the cake’s inscription reads
“Happy 20th Year Anniversary PowerPoint!”
Headline speaker was Jeff Raikes, President of the entire Microsoft Business Division,
who had the idea to acquire PowerPoint and got the deal done back in 1987.
(Photos by Judea Eden, herself GBU Wizard #17 in 1988.)
Use of Extraneous Decoration Considered Harmful
Invited “Viewpoint” column for Communications of the ACM,
“PowerPoint at 20: Back to Basics”
by Robert Gaskins, CACM, vol. 50 no. 12 (December 2007).
“Robert Gaskins reflects
on the 20th anniversary of his invention—PowerPoint—and how simplicity, not limitations, ruled its design
and inspires its legacy.”
—Diane Crawford, Editor CACM
“Despite the lush graphics effects so easily produced by modern presentation programs,
most presenters should return to formats nearly as spare as the old overhead transparencies
… more matter with less art.”
- Photos of PowerPoint People
A PowerPoint slideshow
of 100 slides, from photographs taken in 1992 featuring some of the Microsoft Graphics
Business Unit people who are responsible for PowerPoint, the “Wizards of (the other) Menlo Park,”
along with part of Hunk and Moo Anderson’s art collection
displayed throughout the GBU building at 2460 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, California, in the oak-covered hills
overlooking the Stanford campus.
is very large, 31.5 MB; it will open in your browser, or can be downloaded. View in PowerPoint or use the free
PowerPoint Viewer, which will open all presentations linked from this website.)
This set of slides was first shown by Professor Ken Goldberg to introduce
an Art, Technology, and Culture Colloquium held at UC Berkeley for David Byrne’s
“I ♥ PowerPoint” presentation, 07 March 2005.
Strategy Document (“Product Marketing Analysis”)
by Robert Gaskins, June 1986
This is the complete description of what the PowerPoint product would be, who would buy it, and why;
written about one year before initial shipment—now
- PowerPoint Strategy Slides
(“New Product Strategy & Review”)
by Robert Gaskins, July 1986
A presentation derived from the preceding document, which also served to illustrate what sort of
presentations would be made by the future PowerPoint.
Design: Screens, Menus, Dialogs
by Dennis Austin and Robert Gaskins, 21 August 1985 (25 pages)
An all-graphical design; notice that this was printed on a slow impact printer, because when the document was written the first Apple LaserWriter
had not yet been shipped, even to developers; you needed to believe.See also:
Design: Sample Output by Dennis Austin and Robert Gaskins, 21 August 1985 and 21 February 1986 (14 pages)
- PowerPoint Specification
by Dennis Austin, Tom Rudkin, and Robert Gaskins, 22 May 1986 (45 pages)
- Report on the First Year
of the Microsoft Graphics Business Unit
by Robert Gaskins, August 1988
- GBU Tenth Anniversary of PPT 1.0
by Catherine Belleville,Lucy Peterson, and Aniko Somogyi, April 1997 (8 pages)
Includes our cast list of “all the wizards, in order of appearance”, the names of the first
125 people who worked on PowerPoint 1984–1994.
Version Timeline PPT (to PowerPoint 7.0, 1995) or PDF
by Dennis Austin, 2001 (9 slides)
- Early PowerPoint Boxes
hi-res scans of early products, front and back (to PowerPoint 4.0, 1994)
Byrne’s “I ♥ PowerPoint”
an Art, Technology, and
Culture Colloquium held at UC Berkeley on 07 March 2005, with invited guests Bob Gaskins and Dennis Austin
“In one of the most unusual PowerPoint presentations ever given in Dwinelle Hall,
ex-Talking Head David Byrne poked fun at the popular Microsoft software’s
bullet-point tyranny and Autocontent Wizard inanity. But he also defended
its appeal not only as a business tool, but also as a medium for art and theater.”
“ … [Engineering Professor Ken] Goldberg’s preamble was in the form,
of course, of a PowerPoint presentation: one with snapshots of businesspeople in offices. They turned out to be
1990s photos of the original team who created
PowerPoint, led by Berkeley alumnus Bob Gaskins and Dennis Austin. When Goldberg announced the
two men were in the audience — ‘To us engineers, you’re rock stars!’ — the applause was
almost as loud as it had been for Byrne.”
Byrne Really Does ♥ PowerPoint,” by Bonnie Powell,
with photos by Bart Nagel.
- David Byrne’s Journal, Mar 2005:
“Did the PowerPoint talk in Berkeley for an audience of IT legends and academics. I was terrified.
The guys that originally turned PowerPoint into a program were there, what were THEY gonna think?”
“Bob Gaskins … did tell me afterwards that he liked the PowerPoint as theater idea, which
was a relief.”
- See also: Envisioning
Emotional Epistemological Information, by David Byrne (hardcover with DVD, Steidl and Pace/MacGill Gallery, 2003),
a large-format art book of Byrne’s PowerPoint images with essays and a DVD of his PowerPoint presentations with original
music soundtracks, based on museum exhibitions.
“I have been working with PowerPoint … as an art medium for a number of years. It
started off as a joke … but then the work took on a life of its own as I realized I could create pieces that were
moving, despite the limitations of the ‘medium.’ ”
(The book’s website has more, along with
installation photos from New York and Tokyo.)