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Farewell, Dennis Austin father of PowerPoint

Vale Dennis Austin, one of the original creators of PowerPoint has died at the age of 76.

Back in 1987 Mr Austin and Robert Gaskins developed ‘Presenter’ for the Mac with some then unique features.  A “direct manipulation interface”, what we now call WYSIWYG and take for granted in modern apps.

The idea of working directly on a slide, adding text (in multiple fonts!), images, clipart, borders etc was quite something, especially for the hardware of the time.  Also the notion of uniformity with the same basic format continued for each slide.

Made using PowerPoint 95 with a ‘new’ template of the same vintage.

Mr Gaskins gave his partner high praise insisting that “… if Dennis had not been the person designing PowerPoint, no one would ever have heard of it.”

It didn’t take long for Microsoft to notice the importance of PowerPoint.  Only months after release they bought Forethought, the company behind PowerPoint, for $14 million.

Dennis Austin continued to work on PowerPoint as a Microsoft employee until he retired in 1996.

Many people don’t like PowerPoint when they are really complaining about how the software is (mis)used.  There’s no doubt we all owe a lot to Dennis Austin.

The Washington Post has an obituary. The Computer History Museum has an oral history with Mr Austin.

Vale Ray Tomlinson
Vale two pioneers of word-processing, Lawrence Tesler and Gary Starkweather
PowerPoint at Office Watch

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