Home News Dennis Austin, Co-Creator Of PowerPoint, Dies At 76

Dennis Austin, Co-Creator Of PowerPoint, Dies At 76


Mr Austin was suffering from Lung Cancer

Dennis Austin, the co-creator of PowerPoint presentation died at his home in Los Altos, California on September 1, he was 76. His son, Michael Austin, told the Washington Post that he was suffering from lung cancer metastasising to his brain.

Mr Austin had studied engineering at several universities, including MIT and UC Santa Barbara, before joining the software company Forethought as a software developer and co-developing Powerpoint. According to The Washington Post, the company released the software in 1987, and Microsoft bought the company just a few months later for $14 million. Mr. Austin was the PowerPoint’s primary developer from 1985 to 1996 when he retired.

By 1993, PowerPoint was generating more than $100 million in sales. Microsoft integrated PowerPoint into its suite of Office programs, including Word.

“Our users were familiar with computers, but probably not graphics software,” Mr. Austin wrote in an unpublished history of the software’s development. “They were highly motivated to look their best in front of others, but they weren’t savvy in graphics design.”

Mr. Austin worked with Robert Gaskins, the Forethought executive who conceived the software. As a software engineer, Mr. Austin used to make PowerPoint easy to operate.

He wrote that he accomplished this with a “direct-manipulation interface,” meaning that “what you are editing looks exactly like the final product.”

The goal was “to create presentations- not simply slides.”

In his book “Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint”, Mr. Gaskins wrote that “Dennis came up with at least half of the major design ideas,” and was “completely responsible for the fluid performance and the polished finish of the implementation.”

“It’s a good bet,” Mr Gaskins added, “that if Dennis had not been the person designing PowerPoint, no one would ever have heard of it.”

Over 30 million presentations are created every day on PowerPoint. The software is used by corporate executives, business schools, professors and military generals.

Mr. Austin was born in Pittsburgh on May 28, 1947. He studied engineering at the University of Virginia.

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