Microsoft PowerPoint History

By Dave Fidlin

i markjacobson62/ The cover art for Microsoft PowerPoint Plain & Simple software in 2007.

Today, it is used in a cross-section of different professions and has been a tool for presentations in the board room or classroom. The origins of PowerPoint software can be traced to the mid 1980s, but the program gained in popularity after being acquired by Microsoft and technology evolved.

First Version

On August 14, 1984, development began on a program known as Presenter by software company Forethought Inc. It was touted at the time as one of the first personal computer programs that could be used to create presentation slides. Features on that initial version included a choice of 236 different colors from which to chose. When the program was released to the general market in early 1987, it was geared toward Macintosh users.

Purchase by Microsoft

In August 1987, Forethought Inc. was purchased by Microsoft for $14 million. Forethought was folded into Microsoft's Graphics Business Unit, and the presentation program was refined by Microsoft personnel. A month after the acquisition, a revamped version of Presenter was released, but had been renamed PowerPoint because of trademark concerns. The new version by Microsoft was compatible with Macintosh and DOS-based computer systems.

Lukewarm Response

PowerPoint was not widely used by professionals when it was first released, largely due to cost. Most businesses opted to continue using overhead transparencies as visuals during presentations. The color graphic slides needed for PowerPoint were expensive at the time. In general, only large companies used PowerPoint as a cutting-edge substitute for transparencies.

Partnership With Graphics Company

In an effort to bolster sales, Microsoft partnered with a competing software company, Genigraphics, in 1988. Genigraphics agreed to create color slides for PowerPoint users, and when Version 2.0 was released the same year, the partnership was consummated. Prior to the partnership, Genigraphics had been creating graphic presentations for large corporations and thus, had standard templates to use.


Microsoft continued to evolve the features in PowerPoint, and new versions were released throughout the 1990s. During this decade, the software company introduced its Office Suite of products that were installed on computers. While Word and Excel were two of the most popular programs within the suite, consumers were beginning to notice PowerPoint, which also was included in the package. Consumers also began to do PowerPoint presentations on their own as programs became more user-friendly and less costly. This resulted in the loss of the middle-man--Genigraphics.

Modern Versions

PowerPoint continued to evolve into the new century to adapt to the many changes that took place in the late 1990s, including the introduction of Microsoft's Windows software, email and the Internet. Newer versions featured sound, special effects and the ability to create animation. PowerPoint presentations no longer need to be shown solely on large projectors; they can be sent through email and viewed on personal computers as well.