PowerPoint History Documents

Robert Gaskins

Documents Referenced in Sweating Bullets:

The documents listed below are unpublished documents about PowerPoint history by various authors, referenced in Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint, along with archived versions of a few other referenced documents difficult to consult. Also included is the full text of the book in a free searchable PDF with hyperlinks.

Andreessen, Marc. 2007. “Part 3: ‘But I Don’t Know Any VCs!’ ” Pmarca Guide to Startups. June 25, 2007. Archived at
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/andreessen-pmarca-guide-to-startups-2007-jun-25.pdf

Austin, Dennis, and Robert Gaskins. 1985. “Presenter [PowerPoint] Design.” 21 August, 1985.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/austin-gaskins-powerpoint-design-1985-aug-21.pdf

Austin, Dennis, and Robert Gaskins. 1985. “Presenter [PowerPoint] Output Samples.” 21 August, 1985.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/austin-gaskins-powerpoint-output-samples-1985-aug-21-1986-feb-21.pdf

Austin, Dennis, Tom Rudkin, and Robert Gaskins. 1986. “Presenter [PowerPoint] Specification.” 22 May, 1986.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/austin-rudkin-gaskins-powerpoint-spec-1986-may-22.pdf

Belleville, Cathy, Lucy Peterson, and Aniko Somogyi. 1997. “PowerPoint: The First Ten Years.” 20 April, 1997.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/belleville-peterson-somogyi-gbu-10-year-reunion-1997-apr.pdf

Cortén, Dick. 2008. “ ‘Big Boost from Berkeley’: Inventing Critical Breakthroughs Behind the Personal Computer.” The Graduate, UC Berkeley Graduate Division, Vol. 20 No. 1, 2008.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/berkeley-thegraduate-2008-bigboost-acro7.pdf

Gaskins, Robert. 1984. “Presenter [PowerPoint] Original Proposal.” 14 August, 1984.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/gaskins-powerpoint-original-proposal-1984-aug-14.pdf

Gaskins, Robert. 1986. “Presenter [PowerPoint] Marketing Analysis.” 27 June, 1986.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/gaskins-powerpoint-marketing-analysis-1986-jun-27.pdf

Gaskins, Robert. 1986. “Presenter [PowerPoint] New Product Summary and Review.” 15 July, 1986.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/gaskins-powerpoint-summary-and-review-1986-jul-15.pdf.pdf

Gaskins, Robert. 1986. “Presenter [PowerPoint] Status Update.” 14 August, 1986.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/gaskins-powerpoint-status-1986-aug-14.pdf

Gaskins, Robert. 1987. “Forethought Future Business Strategy.” 25 May, 1987.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/gaskins-forethought-strategy-1987-may-25.pdf

Gaskins, Robert. 1987. “History of Forethought Since the Restart.” 25 May, 1987.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/gaskins-history-of-forethought-1987-may-25.pdf

Gaskins, Robert. 1987. “Lessons from the Experience of the Restart.” 25 May, 1987.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/gaskins-lessons-of-restart-1987-may-25.pdf

Gaskins, Robert. 1987. “Response to Microsoft.” 1 June, 1987.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/gaskins-response-to-microsoft-1987-jun-01.pdf

Gaskins, Robert. 1987. “Response to Microsoft, Extended.” 15 June, 1987.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/gaskins-response-2-to-microsoft-1987-jun-15.pdf

Gaskins, Robert. 1988. “Results of Microsoft’s Graphics Business Unit after Our First Year.” 8 August, 1988.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/gaskins-gbu-first-year-report-to-microsoft-1988-aug-08.pdf

Gaskins, Robert. 1992. “Photos of GBU on Sand Hill Road, 1992” (PowerPoint presentation; “.pps” is a self-running slide show, “.ppt” is a conventional PowerPoint presentation). Includes good photographs of many of the GBU people. 1992.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/gaskins-gbu-photos-sand-hill-road-1992.pps
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/gaskins-gbu-photos-sand-hill-road-1992.ppt

Gaskins, Robert. 2002. Interview by Peter Day. “Power Mad.” BBC Radio 4, London. 10 February, 2002.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/bbc-power-mad.mp3

Gaskins, Robert. 2002. Transcript of interview by Peter Day. “Power Mad Transcript.” BBC Radio 4, London. 10 February, 2002.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/bbc-power-mad-transcript.pdf

Gaskins, Robert. 2007. “PowerPoint at 20: Back to Basics.” Communications of the ACM 50, no. 12 (December 2007): 15–17. On the web at
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/gaskins-powerpoint-at-20-cacm-vol50-no12-dec-2007-p15-p17.pdf

Gaskins, Robert. 2012. “Comments on Dilbert’s History of PowerPoint.” 2012.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/gaskins-comments-on-dilbert-history-of-powerpoint.pdf

Gaskins, Robert. 2012. “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. 20 April 2012. Archived design with 25th-anniversary dates at
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/tshirt/powerpoint-tshirt-25years-W1722-H2422.pdf

Gaskins, Robert. 2012. Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint. San Francisco and London: Vinland Books, 512 pp. Library of Congress Control Number 2012936438. LC classification T385 .G379 2012, LC Dewey class no. 005.5/8. LC Subjects: Gaskins, Robert, Microsoft PowerPoint (Computer file)--History, Forethought, Inc.--History, Microsoft Corporation--History--20th century, Presentation graphics software--History. Publication formats: ISBN13: 978-0-9851424-0-7 (hardcover) ISBN10: 0-9851424-0-5 (hardcover), ISBN13: 978-0-9851424-1-4 (web PDF) ISBN10: 0-9851424-1-3 (web PDF), ISBN13: 978-0-9851424-2-1 (paperback) ISBN10: 0-9851424-2-1 (paperback), ISBN13: 978-0-9851424-3-8 (ebook kindle) ISBN10: 0-9851424-3–X (ebook kindle), ISBN13: 978-0-9851424-4-5 (ebook epub) ISBN10: 0-9851424-4–8 (ebook epub). 20 April 2012. Archived searchable full text with hyperlinks to unpublished sources at
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/sweating-bullets/gaskins-sweating-bullets-webpdf-isbn-9780985142414.pdf

Gaskins, Robert, and Dennis Austin. 2002. Interview by Steffan Heuer. “The Revolutionaries of the Office.” Brand Eins (Issue 3, 2002). Translated by Susan Grabau.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/brand-eins-the-revolutionaries-of-the-office-trans-susan-grabau.pdf

Gaskins, Robert, and Laura Gould. 1972. Snobol4: A Computer Language for the Humanities. Berkeley, CA: University of California, 1972. On the web at
www.robertgaskins.com/files/gaskins-gould-cal-snobol4-1972.pdf

Gates, Bill. 1991. “Market Share of Applications in the United States.” 19 February, 1991.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/gates-memo-on-office-1991-feb-19-comes-px00577.pdf

Gold, Rich. 2002. “Reading PowerPoint.” In Working with Words and Images: New Steps in an Old Dance, edited by Nancy Allen, 256–270. Westport, Connecticut: Ablex Publishing, 2002. (Gold’s chapter was written in 1999). Archived at
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/gold-reading-powerpoint-1999.pdf

Graphics Business Unit, Microsoft. 1989. “GBU Map and Driving Directions.” 10 November 1989.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/gbu-sand-hill-road-driving-directions.pdf

Lucky, Robert W. 1998. “The World According to PowerPoint.” IEEE Spectrum, January 1998: p. 17. Original IEEE copy at
ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?reload=true&arnumber=00646010
Archived at
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/lucky-robert-w-the-world-according-to-powerpoint-ieee-spectrum-1998.pdf

Maples, Mike. 2004. “An Interview with Mike Maples (OH 387).” Edited by Nathan Ensmenger. Charles Babbage Institute, Center for the History of Information Processing, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. 7 May, 2004.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/ensmenger-cbi-interview-mike-maples-oh387mm-2004-may-07.pdf

Microsoft Corporation. 1987. “Microsoft Letter of Intent for Forethought.” 13 May, 1987.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/microsoft-letter-of-intent-for-forethought-1987-may-13.pdf

New York Times. 1987. “Microsoft Buys Software Unit.” 31 July, 1987.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/microsoft-buys-software-unit-powerpoint-new-york-times-1987-july-31.pdf

Rudkin, Tom. 1987. “Appearance of PowerPoint under Windows and Presentation Manager.” 5 October, 1987.
www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/rudkin-windows-powerpoint-first-spec-1987-oct-05.pdf

 

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.

Quadranscentennial Reunion 8 May 2012

From left: Dennis Austin, Jan Austin, Leanna Gaskins,
Jann Rudkin, Bob Gaskins, Tom Rudkin
Sweating Bullets front cover

Sweating Bullets:
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
 (ISBN: 978-0-9851424-0-7)
Full PDF searchable, 512 pp., Free
 (ISBN: 978-0-9851424-1-4)
Paperback 6" × 9", 512 pp., $17.99
 (ISBN: 978-0-9851424-2-1)
Ebook for Kindle (all platforms), $2.99
 (ISBN: 978-0-9851424-3-8)
Ebook EPUB (Google, Apple, Nook), $2.99
 (ISBN: 978-0-9851424-4-5)


Where to Buy


Hardcover and paperback formats are available worldwide at Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Amazon France, Amazon Germany, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Japan, Amazon China, Amazon India, or buy from Barnes and Noble, or buy from booksellers around the world via Abebooks, or find the book from a local independent bookstore via Indiebound, or order online with free worldwide shipping to over 100 countries.

Ebook formats are available worldwide through Amazon Kindle stores (US, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Canada, Japan), Google Play stores (US, UK, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Russia, Spain), and Apple iTunes stores (US, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Australia).

Full PDF format (fully searchable and with links to references) is available worldwide for free download here, www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/sweating-bullets/gaskins-sweating-bullets-webpdf-isbn-9780985142414.pdf.
PowerPoint 1.0 1987 t-shirt
PowerPoint 1.0 1987 t-shirt design

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 1987 tote bag design

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.
Buy Sweating Bullets book from Amazon
Buy PowerPoint 1.0 T-shirt from RedBubble

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.

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 of the 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.   Not pictured:   (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.

About the Author:

  • “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.”
    —Lee Gomes, 20 June 2007,
      The Wall Street Journal
Robert Gaskins, author of Sweating Bullets
  • For much more information about Robert Gaskins and about PowerPoint history, see:
    Robert Gaskins Home Page www.robertgaskins.com

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