I wonder if the guys and gals of Forethought Inc ever thought their app for helping visualise complex statistical data (imaginatively entitled ‘Presenter’) would be used as widely as it is now, 25 years later? I was asked to deliver a PowerPoint presentation to celebrate the 25th birthday of the inception of PowerPoint. So, there are 50 people at a business breakfast in a Dublin city centre cafe and I have to answer questions about the good and the bad of PowerPoint to them from the the moderator, the excellent Mr John Murray.
So far so good. Poke fun at PowerPoint to a live audience? Who ya gonna call? [hint – not Ghostbusters] Hoo-ah!
“Ah yes,” say the nice people at RTE, “but you also have to make the presentation comprehensible, useful and enjoyable to the 300,000 listeners on the wireless radio.”
“Hmmmmm … Have you ever seen a braille version of PowerPoint?” I ask.
“Can’t say we have,” chirp the producers.
“I suspect there may be a reason for that,” I opine. [It’s true – sometimes I opine]
So, what was going to be an all-singing, all dancing PPT extravaganza, was very sensibly condensed down to a few, cheap-laugh, slides while I dealt with Mr Murray’s thoughts and questions on the topic. It was great fun to do, but I felt a bit like Alice at the Mad Hatter’s tea-party …

Here’s the audio of the piece (about 7 minutes including a soaring version of Happy Birthday, sung to PowerPoint by a 15-strong choir. Really.)

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And here are the slides I put together to get the conversation going. I was sorely tempted to compile this preso in Keynote, but I was battered down by the scary hairy creative types in the basement, who felt my credibility might suffer as a result. [Ha!] So I was a good boy and used the old workhorse:

RSS Readers may need to click through to the post – it’s a SlideShare thing, sorry
We’ve come a long way from the 1987 press announcement in the New York Times that Microsoft were acquiring Forethought Inc for $14 million:
“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'”

I also loved Mr Gaskin’s original product proposal from 25 years ago. You can find the full document on his website.

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Happy birthday PowerPoint.