Nefarious instrument of torture
, the preferred weapon of corporate executives
and their evil marketing
minions. Easily recognizable from afar due to their cut-and-paste
nature; sometimes you can even smell the buzzwords
coming off the sheets.
PowerPoint was also yet another tool for Microsoft to eliminate competition, being part of the Microsoft Office "bundle." Microsoft acquired it by purchasing Forethought Inc. in 1987 (tregoweth: you were close!). Presentation software at the time was ruled by Harvard Presentation Graphics from Harvard Graphics; there was also Freelance Graphics from Lotus and Persuasion from Aldus.(*) Forethought had trouble getting venture capital because the market was so crowded, but they gave it a go anyway, and when Microsoft found itself wanting for a presentation package, they came knocking.
Like WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3, Harvard Presentation Graphics got wiped out as Microsoft Office took hold in businesses. By 1994, PowerPoint was the dominant presentation software in business. (Ironically, PowerPoint 1.0 was released only for the Macintosh!)
PowerPoint has expanded as computer technology has improved. Most notably, animation became available to PowerPoint in 1995, cemeting PowerPoint's place as the single most painful computer tool ever released.
All joking aside, PowerPoint slides can be an awful experience, allowing the presenter to sleepwalk through a tangle of cliches while supposedly "communicating" his/her ideas. There was a recent news article about a working mother who disciplines her kids by giving them a PowerPoint presentation about why they should behave. One of her sons even cries when she brings out the slides. Exactly how I feel sometimes. (This is real: http://www.citypaper.com/2001-03-28/cyber.html)
As a humble corporate worker bee, not a high-paid consultant, let me offer some subjective PowerPoint advice to the marketeers out there: Make your point at the beginning. Too many presentations save their thesis for the end, like it's a punch line. This is especially galling when the presentation is about a specific product. Why do you want me to be bored and nodding off when you finally get to your point? Tell me what the product is first, dammit!
-- PowerPoint history in Presentations magazine: http://www.presentations.com/techno/soft/2000/02/19_f3_gro.html
-- ... and way too much personal experience.
* Thanks to ascorbic for the correction ... I'd originally flagged PageMaker as the Aldus presentation product.