25 Years of PC Magazine: Year Six 1987

Innovators: Robert Gaskins
25 Years of PC Magazine

How many PowerPoint presentations have you watched over the past 20 years? Five hundred? A thousand? Ten thousand? You have Robert Gaskins to thank for every single one. PowerPoint was his idea, and it was his company—not Microsoft—that first brought the now-ubiquitous presentation tool to market.

In the mid-eighties, as Gaskins helped plan a new personal computer for the European division of Northern Telecom, he spent more than a year meeting with the world's hardware and software manufacturers. Each meeting began with some sort of professionally printed presentation—including overhead transparencies, photo slides, or even flip charts—and at some point, it dawned on him how much time and money could be saved if this sort of thing were built on a PC.
Robert Gaskins

"Eventually, I collected a box full of these presentations. They were all made by hand, but they were all very much the same," he says. "I was very interested in the coming revolution of Macs and Windows PCs, and looking at that collection of presentations, I realized this could be done with software in the not-too-distant future."


Taking over a software start-up called Forethought, Gaskins raised his own venture capital and spent the next three years developing a presentation application for Apple's fledgling Macintosh platform. PowerPoint 1.0 shipped in April 1987.

PC Magazine didn't review it. We were PC snobs. But just a few months later, Microsoft purchased Forethought for $14 million, making Gaskins the head of its new graphics business unit. Three years after that, the unit unveiled a version of PowerPoint for Microsoft's brand-new GUI operating system, Windows 3.0. And we did review it. "Presentation makers have never had it so easy," wrote then senior editor Robin Raskin.

Gaskins left Microsoft in 1993 and moved to London, where he took up the study of 19th-century British music. But PowerPoint lives on ...

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table of contents
Innovators: Robert Gaskins
Does That Say PS Magazine?
Product Flashback: IBM Personal System/2
In 1987...
Do You Remember?
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