Dennis Austin, one of the brilliant minds behind the creation of PowerPoint, sadly pἀssed away at the age of 76 in his home in Los Altos, California, on September 1st. His son, Michael Austin, revealed that he had been battling lung cἀncer that had spread to his brain.
Austin’s journey into the world of software began after he pursued engineering studies at renowned institutions such as MIT and UC Santa Barbara. He then ventured into the realm of software development, eventually finding his way to Forethought, the company where the PowerPoint magic began. Together with his colleague Robert Gaskins, Austin co-developed PowerPoint, and in 1987, the software was released to the world. Shortly thereafter, Microsoft recognized its potential and acquired Forethought. Austin served as the primary developer for PowerPoint from 1985 until his retirement in 1996.
It’s worth noting that Gaskins, the other co-creator, acknowledged Austin’s significant contributions. In his book “Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint,” Gaskins mentioned that Austin was responsible for at least half of the major design ideas that shaped PowerPoint. Without his input, this widely used software might never have gained the prominence it enjoys today.
Do you know that Microsoft has taken a brave step to shield its AI Copilot customers from potential legal issues linked to copyright infringement? Microsoft’s Chief Legal Officer, Brad Smith, stated in a recent blog post establishing the “Copilot Copyright Commitment” program that the business will foot the bill if any of its commercial users are sued for copyright violations while using AI Copilot:
PowerPoint has had its fair share of critics over its 36-year history as the go-to software for presentations. Notably, Jeff Bezos once banned PowerPoint presentations at Amazon, considering it one of the smartest decisions the company ever made. The late Steve Jobs was also skeptical of its value, stating that “people who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.”
Interestingly, back in 2003, there was what some called “The Great PowerPoint Panic.” Many believed that this tool would erode our cognitive abilities, hamper effective communication, and waste our precious time. However, PowerPoint has its enthusiasts as well. David Byrne, the lead singer of The Talking Heads, saw it not just as a presentation tool but as an artistic canvas.
Despite the polarized opinions about it, PowerPoint remains an integral part of Microsoft’s suite of office tools. In recent times, Microsoft has infused AI capabilities into PowerPoint through Copilot, a modern-day AI assistant for Microsoft 365. This AI can assist in creating presentations, generating images, and even adjusting the tone and format of text within a presentation.
Dennis Austin’s legacy lives on in the software that has become synonymous with presentations in countless boardrooms, classrooms, and conferences around the world.