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- 1 Some possible sources to improve this article, July 2017
- 1.1 Many suitable, independent, and reliable sources can be found
- 1.2 Mainstream media
- 1.3 Business publications
- 1.4 Computer publications
- 1.5 Scholarly articles and dissertations
- 1.6 Books
- 1.7 Expert Judgments of Notability
- 1.8 Further Sources
- 1.9 "Notability is a property of a subject and not of a Wikipedia article" (WP:GNG)
- 2 New book: Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint, April 2012
Some possible sources to improve this article, July 2017
There was a proposal to delete this article, based on the concern "does not pass general notability guidelines" (WP:GNG) which "require multiple independent sources that give indepth coverage". That proposal has been objected to, so it was removed, relying on WP:PERSON:
"People are presumed notable if they have received significant coverage in multiple published secondary sources that are reliable, intellectually independent of each other, and independent of the subject."
Many suitable, independent, and reliable sources can be found
It's true that this article is only a stub (and marked as such), and that it will need much expansion and connections to other articles. But a search uncovers many third-party sources about the subject which will provide information for improvement. Below are some examples of such sources.
Sources discovered come from the mainstream media, business publications, computer publications, peer-reviewed scholarly articles and dissertations, and books from major university presses and publishers. They span the years 1987 to 2017, so they indicate some long-term notability. They are in a number of different languages, so they indicate some international notability. They are not chosen as the best available.
Each example below includes an active and accessible web link, and a brief extract from the source. The extracts are not carefully selected from the sources as an editor would do, they are just for indication of content. About fifteen suitable sources are listed below, but there appear to be many more.
There is no suggestion that these are the best or only sources, but these do exist, they may be verified by all editors, and they are clearly adequate by WP standards as reason to keep the article. Hopefully, they will help lead to discovery of better sources.
The Telegraph, 2017 (UK)
As a recent typical example, a couple of months ago the Enterprise Editor of The Telegraph newspaper, London, wrote a story about Gaskins on the occasion of PowerPoint's 30th anniversary. (This story was very widely syndicated internationally — the archive link is to a newspaper in the United Arab Emirates carrying the story.)
"A 30-year success story," by Rebecca Burn-Callander, Enterprise Editor, The Telegraph, 24 April 2017.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/04/23/powerpoint-celebrates-30th-birthday/ [Gated], archived at: https://web.archive.org/web/20170427160209/http://gulfnews.com/culture/arts/a-30-year-success-story-1.2017522 .
Around a dozen paragraphs, total around 900 words, featuring Gaskins and a recent survey result.
Extract: "PowerPoint was also created amid major hardware constraints. Originally built for an early Macintosh desktop computer, Gaskins’s vision vastly outstripped the available computing power. Today’s Apple Watch has around 1,000 times the computing power of the 1980 "Fat Mac". This meant that the early version of PowerPoint was highly simplistic, and only available in black and white but, by 1992, the release of PowerPoint 3.0 brought vivid colours into the mix. That same year, Gaskins gave one of the first public demonstrations of a PowerPoint presentation from a laptop computer, using video as well as static images.
"He recalls: "The first audiences to see this were totally amazed at what we have all now seen thousands of times."
"Since then, PowerPoint has evolved through countless iterations: the grandaddy of enterprise software is now compatible with Android and Apple phones, and accessible through the cloud. Today there are an estimated 500 million users of PowerPoint across the globe, creating more than 30 million presentations each day. Its popularity has yet to wane, with new research showing that it remains as popular with young tech-savy users as it is with the Baby Boomers. An online poll by YouGov showed that 81 per cent of UK Snapchat users agreed that PowerPoint was a great tool for making presentations. Children still learn PowerPoint in schools, and it remains part of everyday vernacular, not just among office workers but with people of all ages from every walk of life, from vicars giving sermons to diplomats at the UN.
"According to Gaskins, the secret to PowerPoint's success is its adaptability. "PowerPoint does something that many people want to do: expressing a sequence of ideas, one after another in order, using all kinds of graphics and language," he says. The rise of social media platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram show that long-form prose has become increasingly unpopular with modern users."
The New York Times, 1987 (USA)
The New York Times covered Gaskins in connection with his company becoming Microsoft's "first significant acquisition."
"Company News: Microsoft Buys Software Unit," Special to The New York Times, 31 July 1987.
A short news item, but strong confirmation of a few critical early details.
Extract: "SAN FRANCISCO, July 30 — The Microsoft Corporation announced its first significant software acquisition today, paying $14 million for Forethought Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif.
"Forethought makes a program called Powerpoint that allows users of Apple Macintosh computers to make overhead transparencies or flip charts. Some industry officials think such "desktop presentations" have the potential to be as big a market as "desktop publishing" ... .
"Forethought would remain in Sunnyvale, giving Microsoft a Silicon Valley presence. The unit will be headed by Robert Gaskins, Forethought's vice president of product development."
BBC Radio, 2002 (UK)
In 2002 senior correspondent Peter Day of the BBC recorded in San Francisco a live in-person interview, included as part of a programme for Radio 4 and the BBC World Service. (Both the audio and the BBC's transcript are available.)
"Power Mad," presented by Peter Day, produced by Neil Koenig, program first broadcast on BBC Radio 4, 7 February 2002, and repeated on BBC World Service, 8 June 2002.
Audio of the broadcast (MP3, 6.5 MB): http://www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/bbc-power-mad.mp3 . Transcript of the broadcast: http://www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/bbc-power-mad-transcript.pdf .
Extract: "DAY: Let's ask Bob Gaskins, a man with many intensely held interests including concertinas, and books--his snug old house in San Francisco is stuffed with them. Mr Gaskins is the man behind PowerPoint.
"GASKINS: I'd grown up in the audio visual business and I had access to audio visual marketing data and I knew in the early 80s that there as many as a billion — a thousand million presentation slides being made per year just in America and I also knew because I'd been all around the world trying to buy things that the rest of the world also used presentation slides the same way. When I went to Hemel Hempstead of Helsinki or Osaka, I saw exactly the same kind of presentations I saw in America. But they were all made by hand. And almost nobody was using computers to do so. Now the reason was easy to understand and that was that these first generation computers like the Apple II and the original IBM PC were completely unable to deal with graphics, so you didn't have graphic screens. They didn't have graphic printers. They didn't have the speed or the memory or anything else to deal with graphics and pictures. But it was clear to me that here was a huge application worth billions and billions of dollars a year that could be done on computers as soon as there was a revolution in the kinds of computers that we had.
"DAY: So the fact that making presentation slides using computers was very power consuming, very difficult at the time didn't faze you — you decided there was a kernel of something there?
"GASKINS: I knew that this would be where the market would be by the time we could get something done. Of course it took 4 years before PowerPoint was actually ready to ship by that time — everybody was coming around to that point of view and became obvious. Even so, it was a hard sell at that time because here I was trying to raise money to write new software and I had to say to my investors, now this software will not run on any existing personal computers. We're going to write off the entire installed based personal computers. Anybody who wants to use our software will have to buy a new computer — a Macintosh or a Windows based machine in order to use this software. That's a very tough sell to make compared to people who say we're making software that will run on existing machines."
信息方略 (CIO Insight), 2009 (China)
For one example, CIO Insight, a print magazine published by Ziff Davis in China (ISSN 1674-2036), printed a long article about Gaskins in 2009, in its department called "Expert Voices".
"让Point更Power: PowerPoint 的发明人 Robert Gaskins" (in Chinese), ("More Power to Make the Point: PowerPoint Inventor Robert Gaskins"), by 冯磊 (Lori Feng), 信息方略 (CIO Insight), 8 August 2009, pp. 20-24.
Total length is around 3000 words, all dealing just with Gaskins' background and ideas.
Extract: "In the late 1960s, when I was in Berkeley, or rely on so-called computer punch cards for data input and output of the big guys. The use of these machines, it is a question of mathematics research in the physical or chemical calculations, and I think when you use them to research language and music, the arts.
"I was a Berkeley Machine Translation Project chief programmer, this project aims to develop a way to convert Chinese translation into English linguistic theory.
"We use the Chinese input teletype great, these typewriters 100 for generating a plurality of keys Chinese code as input devices, and as output, we are using a slow pen to write Chinese characters. About an hour to write a piece of paper. And I also studied computer typesetting in multi-language environments, as well as many aspects related to graphics and art, so I learned a lot in the reproduction of human language, text, voice, graphics, etc. through the computer. At that time, it looks like a waste of time, because it was the mainframe with limited input and output capabilities seem so out of place.
"But when I leave after the end of the 1970s Berkeley last century, a major change took place, and that is the birth of the personal computer. Despite those early PC capacity is very limited, but you can still find that it's the birth of a lot of people still have to complete the paperwork by word processing software, as well as the urge to complete work by charting a spreadsheet.
"It can be said that I was unconsciously doing a lot of thinking about preparing for the future of PowerPoint. Because PowerPoint is the biggest feature will be integrated with the human language system in a variety of different types of forms together and be able to control, such as images, graphics, and even audio, video and so on. The exciting thing is, ultimately, those thoughts in my mind is considered impractical to become a reality on a personal computer." [Google-translation from the Chinese.]
Brand Eins, 2002 (Germany)
A 2002 article in the German print magazine Brand Eins (an economics publication, ISSN 1438-9339) discussed how Gaskins got the idea for PowerPoint and navigated it to a place in Microsoft Office, as part of a longer article that also described the creators of Word and of VisiCalc.
"Die Revolutionäre des Büros" (in German), ("The Revolutionaries of the Office"), by Steffan Heuer, in Brand Eins, Issue 3, 2002.
Around 900 words (out of the longer source) deal with Gaskins, covering the central business insight and execution.
Extract: "If today thousands of listeners in conference rooms everywhere stare at animated slides, they have Gaskins of San Francisco to thank. Microsoft estimates that every day at least 30 million presentations are created with PowerPoint. Gaskins is honest when he thinks back to the beginnings of PowerPoint. "We weren't the only ones who had the idea for presentation software. Similar concepts were developed at Stanford and at Parc." But he analyzed the market opportunity like no one else and brought programmer Dennis Austin on board to make the idea into a successful product.
"Up until that time, companies had to take their presentation contracts for foils and slides to specialized companies who earned money hand over fist. Even the professionals rarely used the expensive computers with the first graphics programs that were available. Gaskins estimated the market potential at 10 billion dollars in 1990." [Translation from the German.]
The Wall Street Journal, 2007 (USA)
A third example is from The Wall Street Journal, by the veteran journalist Lee Gomes who wrote a widely-followed WSJ column called "Portals" for some years.
"PowerPoint Turns 20, As Its Creators Ponder A Dark Side to Success," by Lee Gomes, in The Wall Street Journal, 20 June 2007, US edition, p. B1.
Also published in The Wall Street Journal Chinese, (simplified:) https://web.archive.org/web/20070625230549/http://chinese.wsj.com:80/gb/20070620/ptl152501.asp?source=InsideToday , (traditional:) https://web.archive.org/web/20160826034548/http://chinese.wsj.com/big5/20070620/ptl152501.asp?source=InsideToday .
A reasonably brief column (around 850 words) but with some essential factual historical details about Gaskins and his co-creator.
Extract: "Robert Gaskins was the visionary entrepreneur who in the mid-1980s realized that the huge but largely invisible market for preparing business slides was a perfect match for the coming generation of graphics-oriented computers. Scores of venture capitalists disagreed, insisting that text-based DOS machines would never go away.
"With major programming done by Dennis Austin, an old chum, PowerPoint 1.0 for Macs came out in 1987. Later that year, Microsoft bought the company for $14 million, its first acquisition, and a Windows version followed three years later. ...
"Mr. Gaskins reminds his questioner that a PowerPoint presentation was never supposed to be the entire proposal, just a quick summary of something longer and better thought out. He cites as an example his original business plan for the program: 53 densely argued pages long. The dozen or so slides that accompanied it were but the highlights.
"Since then, he complains, "a lot of people in business have given up writing the documents. They just write the presentations, which are summaries without the detail, without the backup. A lot of people don't like the intellectual rigor of actually doing the work." "
Wired UK, 2016 (UK)
For one example, a recent 2016 article in Wired UK discussed Gaskins' history and ideas at length:
"29 Reasons to Love PowerPoint," by Russell Davies, in Wired UK, 25 May 2016.
http://www.wired.co.uk/article/powerpoint-birthday-defence ; the author's more readable version, in Tufte-style web markup, is at http://www.russelldavies.com/writing/tuftepowerpoint/tuftepoint.html .
Around 1,400 words (out of a source around twice that length) are about Gaskins, with a great deal about Gaskins' creative background and interests.
Extract: "People think they know the history of PowerPoint; some Microsoft drones slapped together something obvious, bolted it into Office, bundled it with Windows and dumped it onto every corporation in the world. The truth is that Robert Gaskins invented the category of presentation software while presentations were still being done with slides and transparent plastic sheets on overhead projectors. He imagined an age of visual computing and created a tool that would exploit it. He concentrated fiercely on creating a tool optimised for self-expression, assembled a remarkably diverse team and built a product, that, arguably, led the adoption of GUI computing — not one that piggybacked on top of it.
"Gaskin's first big and non-obvious idea was the amount of creative control he would put in the hands of his users. As he told me: "The primary benefit that PowerPoint aimed at, from the start, was to put effective control of presentations into the hands of people who were expressing their own ideas. Before personal computers, presenters worked through secretaries and graphics "producers", and then early personal computers were similarly used for presentations through technical specialists (except by a few enthusiasts). All these intermediaries frequently blurred the message and introduced delays that made it impractical to get everything correct. I thought that "visual" personal computers, Macintosh and Windows, would make it possible for the people who had the ideas to directly produce all the material for their own presentations, so as to express their ideas quickly and accurately."
" ... All of this added up to a new form of expression. Slideshows and overheads had existed in corporate life before but they were so hard to produce that people didn't fiddle with them, they didn't make them personal. PowerPoint turned it into something more like theatre. Gaskins told me: "I personally had studied Shakespearian drama for more than a decade, and I had frequently re-read Erving Goffman's influential book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, in which Goffman famously applies "dramaturgical analysis" to social interaction, using the extended metaphor of theatrical performance. So for many years I had been used to thinking about everyday social interaction in terms of theatre; and because my own jobs since getting out of school had depended heavily on my making persuasive presentations, I'd thought a lot about how to control them for best dramatic effect."
"Twenty-nine years later designer Stefanie Posavec concurs. I asked her if designing for PowerPoint feels more like designing for screen or for print. She said, neither: "It feels like it's a play. It is a really weird way of designing, this is a whole other way of communicating. It's a strange way of thinking about how to communicate a message. It's time based. So much of it is based on this rhythm, the rhythm of the story. You have big reveals, and you have your jokes where you press the button. You have to figure out what your rhythm is and how you play the PowerPoint machine ... ." "
PC Magazine, 2007 (USA)
An article in PC Magazine (ISSN: 0888-8507) named Gaskins as the most significant innovator in personal computers for the year 1987, as seen from twenty years later.
"Innovators: Robert Gaskins," by Cade Metz, in PC Magazine, Vol. 26, No. 5, p. 66, 06 March 2007.
Short feature article, part of a retrospective series identifying the most significant innovator in personal computers for every year of PC Magazine coverage (1987 was its year six); this article focuses entirely on Gaskins as its selected innovator for 1987.
Extract: "How many PowerPoint presentations have you watched over the past 20 years? Five hundred? A thousand? Ten thousand? You have Robert Gaskins to thank for every single one. PowerPoint was his idea, and it was his company — not Microsoft — that first brought the now-ubiquitous presentation tool to market. In the mid-eighties, as Gaskins helped plan a new personal computer for the European division of Northern Telecom, he spent more than a year meeting with the world's hardware and software manufacturers. Each meeting began with some sort of professionally printed presentation — including overhead transparencies, photo slides, or even flip charts — and at some point it dawned on him how much time and money could be saved if this sort of thing were built on a PC. "Eventually, I collected a box full of these presentations. They were all made by hand, but they were all very much the same," he says. "I was very interested in the coming revolution of Macs and Windows PCs, and looking at that collection of presentations, I realized that this could be done with software in the not-too-distant future." ... PowerPoint 1.0 shipped in April 1987. PC Magazine didn't review it. We were PC snobs. But just a few months later, Microsoft purchased Forethought for $14 million, making Gaskins the head of its new graphics business unit. Three years after that, the unit unveiled a version of PowerPoint for Microsoft's brand-new GUI operating system, Windows 3.0. And we did review it."
InfoWorld, 1987 (USA)
An early article in InfoWorld (ISSN: 0199-6649) mentioned Gaskins achievement in being first with a new idea, and his then-current responsibilities.
"Microsoft Acquires Forethought, Publisher of PowerPoint Package," by Rachel Parker, in InfoWorld, Vol. 9, Issue 31, p. 8, 03 August 1987.
News article, comparable to others in Inforworld in this period.
Extract: " "We made this deal primarily because of our belief in desktop presentations as a product category," said Microsoft president and chief operating officer Jon Shirley. "Forethought was first to market with a product in this category." ... The Forethought group will become Microsoft's Graphics Business Unit, forming a permanent Microsoft development and marketing facility in Sunnyvale, California. With a site in California, Microsoft hopes to recruit programmers who might not want to relocate to Washington, Shirley said. ... The graphics unit will be headed by Robert Gaskins, Forethought's vice president of product development ... ."
Scholarly articles and dissertations
Computational Culture, 2016 (USA/Sweden)
For a recent example, a 2016 article in the peer-reviewed journal Computational Culture (ISSN 2047-2390) cited Gaskins' works and discussed Gaskins' history and ideas at length:
"One Damn Slide After Another: PowerPoint at Every Occasion for Speech," by Erica Robles-Anderson (New York University) and Patrik Svensson (Umeå [Sweden] University), in Computational Culture, a journal of software studies, Issue 5, published 15 July 2016.
Around 1,500 words (out of 8,000 words in the source) cover Gaskins, including his biographical background, his design principles, and his early work designing PowerPoint.
Extract: "In 1984 Robert Gaskins joined Forethought as part of their corporate restart. Gaskins hailed from the Palo Alto laboratory for Bell-Northern Research, the largest research and development operation in Canada. Prior to that he pursued an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Computer Science, Linguistics, and English at University of California Berkeley. At the time Computer Science was still in the College of Letters and Science and Gaskins' interests in natural languages, writing systems, and typesetting overlapped naturally with the technical field.
"Gaskins' bio reads like that of a digital humanist. As chief programmer at the Berkeley Machine Translation Project he worked on Chinese-English translation techniques, typesetting Egyptian hieroglyphics, musical structures, and computer poetry. He co-authored (with Laura Gould) a Snobol4 textbook for humanists interested in text manipulation.
"Undergirding these sensibilities was a long personal history with presentations. Gaskins' father was a prominent member of the National Audio-Visual Association and owned photographic equipment businesses. Gaskins recalls that "our most memorable family vacations were every few years when we went to visit the Eastman Kodak Co. in Rochester NY," "it was the most established institution of my childhood." At Bell-Northern Gaskins was steeped in a meeting culture reliant upon overhead transparencies and photographic slides. When Gaskins, Dennis Austin, and Tom Rudkin began producing the specifications for Presenter, they used Gaskins' personal archive of presentations as a corpus for extracting the key features ... ." [Footnote references removed.]
Ph.D. Dissertation, 2015 (Netherlands)
A Ph.D. dissertation by Brigitte Hertz, a social psychologist in the Netherlands (her committee included Professor David K. Farkas from the University of Washington). It analyzes scientific presentations at conferences that used PowerPoint, and mentions Gaskins and his ideas at some length.
Spotlight on the presenter; A study into presentations of conference papers with PowerPoint, by Brigitte Hertz, Ph.D. dissertation, Wageningen University, Wageningen, NL, 200 pages with references, with summary in English (ISBN: 9789462573192).
Discussion contrasting Gaskins' ideas in designing PowerPoint with the actual way it is employed by users in scientific presentations.
Extract: "Gaskins was surprised that the technical possibilities seemed to open the doors for presenters to use all options, instead of leading them to carefully consider questions about their suitability. ... Gaskins says that the real mystery to him is "why PowerPoint — including its default presentation style based on traditional business presentations — has been adopted so widely in other contexts". ... Clearly, then, many presenters were seduced by the technical possibilities of PowerPoint to use the program for purposes for which it wasn't designed and they interpreted the default settings as the only way of operating the program. ... PowerPoint has many other options, such as the use of animation. Presenters need not use these effects, however. They were designed for "highly theatrical occasions with large audiences where entertainment was the main goal" [footnote to Gaskins] and not for scientific presentations."
Communications of the ACM, 2007 (USA)
In addition to peer-reviewed articles by others, Gaskins was also himself invited to write a "Viewpoint" article for Communications of the ACM, which was accepted and published in CommACM vol. 50 no. 12 (December 2007); the ideas in that article have been frequently quoted, cited, and debated in later scholarly books and articles. The Editor of CommACM at the time wrote a blurb to summarize it:
"Robert Gaskins reflects on the 20th anniversary of his invention — PowerPoint — and how simplicity, not limitations, ruled its design and inspires its legacy. —Diane Crawford, Editor CommACM."
Many additional important sources appear to exist in this category.
Oxford University Press, 2015 (USA/UK)
Some of Professor Baron's thoughts from the book, concerning Gaskins, were summarized by her in an op-ed she wrote to introduce the book:
"PowerPoint: The Beginning of the End for Real Reading," by Naomi Baron, Live Science, 9 August 2014.
Extract: "PowerPoint has become as much a part of Americans' lives as fast food and urban gridlock. Go to business meetings, professional conferences or middle-school classrooms, and you'll find people clicking away through slide sets.
"The origins of this digital powerhouse trace back to Aug. 14, 1984, when computer science researcher Robert Gaskins drafted a plan for a presentation graphics program. After its quiet beginnings, Gaskins' program — PowerPoint — was bought by Microsoft in 1987, forming the basis of the company's new Graphics Business Unit. Then, like kudzu, the program spread its tentacles. Gaskins might never have imagined his invention would be the forerunner of a reading style I call a "PowerPoint state of mind." ... My concern isn't actually with PowerPoint, but with the frame of mind it puts people in when they read on a digital device. ...
"Here's where the PowerPoint state of mind comes in. Long before eReaders arrived, PowerPoint was already habituating people to skimming, scanning and skipping on digital screens — and not looking back. Today, the Internet, Kindles , iPads and mobile phones are the primary agents driving Type 2 reading. But Gaskins' PowerPoint prepared the ground."
Cambridge University Press, 2013 (Germany/UK)
Most of Chapter 2, pp. 26-49, discusses Gaskins, with frequent additional mentions throughout the book.
Extract: "Gaskins's successful pitch for this idea allowed him to leave Bell Northern Research and to found a new Silicon Valley firm, Forethought, of which he owned a "sizeable share." Together with the software developer Dennis Austin he began to work on a program called Presenter. ... Although the market for such a program was still small, Microsoft acquired Gaskins's Forethought for $14 million in August 1987. Forethought was turned into the Microsoft "Graphics Business Unit," led by Gaskins, a unit that was not located on the Main Campus of Microsoft and is also said to have differed in many respects from Microsoft's organizational culture. ...
"Even if some contend that Gaskins was strongly oriented toward the slide as a "physical object," it is important to note that he also envisioned the presentation as an event. ... Thus Gaskins foresaw that "the much cheaper video projectors and programs such as Presenter should give rise to an entirely new phenomenon — presentations with the informality of overhead transparencies, delivered in lighted business meetings, but using video generated directly from diskettes instead of actual ovehead foils." ... Thus the presentation as event was defined as a specific target for the use of PowerPoint.
"Gaskins did not content himself with this vision but realized it early in a spectacular form. I would like to remind the reader that the function of PowerPoint 3.0 to present slides by way of the video outlet (a function, as mentioned earlier, that Gaskins had already insisted on early) was only a technical option when it was released in 1992. Nevertheless, it was in this year that Gaskins gave this technical function a usable form, as "the world's first laptop PowerPoint presentation" took place on February 25 in the Regina Hotel in the center of Paris. ... the vital role of this particular presentation was that Gaskins had succeeded in turning the vision he had had years before into reality. Moreover, the seeming technical ease with which it was conducted was very convincing to the audience."
Éditions La Découverte (Paris), 2010 (France)
Franck Frommer, La Pensée PowerPoint, Éditions La Découverte, Paris, 2010 (ISBN: 9782707159533). (In French; English translation 2012.)
Much of Chapter 1, pp. 13-39, discusses Gaskins, with scattered mentions in later chapters.
Extract: "Predestination or determinism? From a family of salesmen of photographic equipment, Robert Gaskins grew up surrounded by overhead projectors, enlargers, and all the products needed at the time for photography. Like many of his colleagues who "invented" computing in the 1970s, he was a student at the University of California at Berkeley, where he produced programs for Chinese translation and the design of Egyptian hieroglyphics. He even invented a machine for creating haikus. ...
"When he graduated from Berkeley in 1978, Gaskins went to work for one of the most prestigious research and development labs in the country, Bell Northern Research, located just opposite PARC in Stanford. .. Gaskins speaks of his participation in important strategic meetings to decide on the response to the first personal computer produced by Apple and IBM. He then was appointed head of a European subsidiary and put in charge of a project to create a line of personal computers and servers, hardware and software, designed in nine languages. "Within fourteen months we shipped the first Intel 286-based personal computers in Europe, based on Microsoft system and application software (which was how I came to know Bill Gates)."
" ... it was version 3.0, released in the summer of 1992, that made PowerPoint the graphic tool we know today, with color, the possibility of direct transfer to video, the dynamics of the slide show, animation, and the possibility of incorporating other audio or video media. Its creator, Robert Gaskins, recalls: "The very first public use of a laptop to project video from PowerPoint took place on 25 February 1992, at the Hotel Regina, in the Place des Pyramides, Paris (across from the Tuileries). With a laptop casually under my arm, I entered at the back of a ballroom filled with hundreds of Microsoft people from the European, Middle Eastern, and African subsidiaries. I walked through the audience carrying the laptop, up to a podium at the front; there I opened the laptop, and plugged in a video cable on the lectern. I began delivering a presentation to introduce PowerPoint 3.0 for Windows, using PowerPoint 3.0 running on the laptop feeding video out to a projector the size of a refrigerator which put the "video slides" onto a huge screen behind me."
"At the time, no one had ever seen a PowerPoint presentation conducted from a laptop, much less used the program to project a video in real time, in color, with animations and transitions. The audience, made up primarily of Microsoft personnel, immediately understood how this tool was going to change the company's future. Gaskins explains that he had had to bring his own material from the United States. "Testing and tweaking went on far into the night, but on Tuesday morning, I could 'casually' carry my laptop up to the front, plug in the video cable, and start my PowerPoint." It is no doubt one of the most famous presentations in the history of PowerPoint. As for many technological innovations — as we will see with Steve Jobs and Apple — announcement, presentation, marketing, and promotions could not be contemplated without staging." [Translated from the French.]
Expert Judgments of Notability
University of California, 2008 (USA)
On one occasion, Gaskins' university (University of California, Berkeley) singled him out for notability. In 2008 the Graduate Division of the university published in its print magazine an article written by journalist Dick Cortén. In it he described selected Berkeley alumni who were notable because they had been responsible for some of the critical breakthroughs behind the personal computer in previous decades, and the university now wanted to claim credit for them, so as to embellish its own reputation: "Berkeley's role in advancing the computer, the transformative invention of our time, may not be widely understood."
Out of the many Berkeley alumni who had contributed to the personal computer field since 1950, Cortén singled out only 13 Berkeley alumni: Doug Englebart (the mouse), Steve Wozniak (Apple II), Butler Lampson (Xerox PARC Alto), Ken Thompson (Unix), Eric Allman (Sendmail), Bill Joy and John Gage (Sun workstation), Jeff Hawkins (PalmPilot), Robert Gaskins (PowerPoint), Gordon Moore, Andy Grove, and Paul Otellini (Intel), and Eric Schmidt (Google).
"Big Boost from Berkeley," by Dick Cortén, The Graduate, Vol. 20, No. 1, 2008, pp. 11-15, (published by the Graduate Division, University of California, Berkeley).
(PDF of print publication:) http://www.robertgaskins.com/powerpoint-history/documents/berkeley-thegraduate-2008-bigboost-acro7.pdf ; (slightly-revised 2009 version for web presentation:) http://grad.berkeley.edu/news/profiles/big-boost/ .
A focused description, including verified educational details.
Extract: "Gaskins worked for Microsoft for nearly six years, directing its business graphics unit, after which he and his wife moved to London, restored an 1890 Victorian "mansion flat," and he became seriously interested in the concertina ("the only native English musical instrument," according to his website). In 2001, they moved back to San Francisco, where he lives and creates "authoritative websites about concertina history."
"At Berkeley, Gaskins had earned an M.A. in 1973, and most of a Ph.D. in computer science, linguistics, and English, with the help of a fellowship from the Ford Foundation."
The stub article already includes links to Gaskins at half a dozen Authority Control agencies: WorldCat, VIAF, LoC, ISNI, ORCID, and ResearcherID, and these can often be a help in identifying suitable sources.
It also includes a link identified as "Official website" to the home page for Gaskins, where some (but far from all) of the available sources are linked in web-readable form.
The public Google Scholar profile for Gaskins shows 41 recent scholarly journal citations to his works, including 26 citations to his CommACM article from 2007 (10 years ago), and 9 citations to his book from 2012 (5 years ago). Most of these are easy to access online, or to request from their authors.
Gaskins' own book, while not itself dispositive of notability, contains additional bibliographical references to published sources and links to historical documents which may in turn lead to suitable sources. Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint, by Robert Gaskins, Vinland Books, 2012, 512pp. (ISBN: 9780985142407, hardcover.) The full text of the book (searchable PDF) is also available on the web for free download.
"Notability is a property of a subject and not of a Wikipedia article" (WP:GNG)
To sum up, this case is a good example of a familiar principle from WP:GNG:
"Notability is a property of a subject and not of a Wikipedia article. ... if the source material exists, even very poor writing and referencing within a Wikipedia article will not decrease the subject's notability. ... The absence of sources or citations in an article (as distinct from the non-existence of sources) does not indicate that a subject is not notable. Notability requires only the existence of suitable independent, reliable sources, not their immediate presence or citation in an article."
The article in its current state, although only a brief stub, at least does contain one verifiable third-party source reference which states and supports the central reason for the article, and does contain an accurate up-to-date link to where some of the relevant information can be found until that stub can be expanded.
And until that happens, the examples listed above demonstrate "the existence of suitable independent, reliable sources" needed for the expansion, and may provide pointers to help find the best sources for the purpose.
New book: Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint, April 2012
Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint
Published by Vinland Books, 20 April 2012
Library of Congress Control: 2012936438
Paperback 6" x 9", 512 pp., US$17.99, £9.99, €12.99, ￥1,588
Book Pages at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Sweating-Bullets-Notes-Inventing-PowerPoint/dp/0985142421/
Looking at the web, it appears that many other booksellers, in many countries, already offer the book as well.
The author has apparently put up a PDF containing the whole book for free download:
The US Amazon.com page says:
Publication Date: April 20, 2012
PowerPoint was the first presentation software designed for Macintosh and Windows, received the first venture capital investment ever made by Apple, and then became the first significant acquisition ever made by Microsoft, who set up a new Graphics Business Unit in Silicon Valley to develop it further. Now, twenty-five years later, PowerPoint is installed on over one billion computers worldwide.
In this book, Robert Gaskins (who invented the idea, managed its design and development, and then headed the new Microsoft group) tells the story of its first years, recounting the perils and disasters narrowly evaded as a startup, dissecting the complexities of being the first distant development group in Microsoft, and explaining decisions and insights that enabled PowerPoint to become a lasting success well beyond its original business uses."
About the Author
Robert Gaskins invented PowerPoint, managed its design and development as a startup for three years, and then headed the new Microsoft PowerPoint business unit in Silicon Valley for another five years. He has written this book to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of PowerPoint."