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The world’s first laptop video PowerPoint presentation 25 February 1992

The world’s first laptop video PowerPoint presentation 25 February 1992


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. No one had ever seen PowerPoint running on a portable computer before, let alone being used to produce a real-time video show in color with animated builds and transitions. The audience, all Microsoft people who talked to customers frequently, grasped immediately what the future would bring for their own presentations; there was deafening applause.

Years of use




The computer hardware was only barely there. I was using an early-production color notebook computer (from Texas Instruments) with 640x480 256-color screen and video out, and sufficient CPU to do graphics. We managed to get hold of two such machines in the U.S., which we loaded with Windows 3.1 Release Candidate 1 and PowerPoint 3.0 Alpha 1, plus a presentation about PPT 3.0. (The unreleased Windows 3.1 was required in order to use TrueType fonts and to include audio and video, as well as for many other graphics improvements which PowerPoint 3.0 would rely upon.) The two machines were hand-carried on separate airplanes to Paris, since no similar machines were available anywhere in Europe. The entire day Monday 24 February 1992 was spent in the ballroom of the Hotel Regina with a staff of local audio-visual consultants installing and trouble-shooting the massive video projector (the only kind that then existed). 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. The demo went off without a hitch.

Similar demonstrations were given in the U.S. and in other parts of the world over the next three months. Windows 3.1 was shipped in April 1992 and PowerPoint 3.0 immediately followed in May 1992; in response many notebooks with color and video were shipped later that same year.

Video slideshows projected from a laptop computer were initially possible only for presenters in specialized venues using professional equipment, but as new video projectors that were small, bright, and inexpensive gradually became available over the next several years this became the most popular PowerPoint presentation format for everyone, and eventually it displaced traditional overheads and 35mm slides. Within a few years what had been a unique demo would become a commonplace worldwide in auditoriums and large corporate conference rooms and then would become ubiquitous in small meeting rooms in businesses of all kinds during the tech boom of the late 1990s. All this was predicted in my strategy documents from the mid-1980s; what was unexpected was that the same hardware would also extend PowerPoint use into university teaching, children’s school reports and science fair projects, sermons in churches, super-titles for opera houses, and many other uses that its creators had never imagined.

The slides I used to demonstrate PowerPoint 3.0 included the device of a notional proposal being made to Queen Isabella by Christopher Columbus seeking financing to sail to America; this presentation had been designed for us by our partner Genigraphics in several formats, including video.

The Columbus theme was used in all our marketing materials, packaging, and demos worldwide beginning with Forethought PowerPoint 1.0 in 1987 through PowerPoint 3.0 in 1992–1993, and in consequence the GBU celebrated Columbus Day, the second Monday in October, as a business-unit holiday. The last use of the theme for the 1992–1993 launch of PowerPoint 3.0 coincided with the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s voyages to America, so the ship awards incorporated U.S. Columbian half-dollar coins minted for the Columbian Exposition exactly a century earlier in 1892 (Windows ship) and 1893 (Mac ship).

The inspiration to create a presentation for Columbus’s project came from the best book I know about how to make presentations, Moving Mountains: The Art of Letting Others See Things Your Way,by Henry M. Boettinger (New York and London: Macmillan, 1969, frequently reprinted but now out of print). Because Boettingerwrote twenty years before PowerPoint was invented, he focuses on the communication techniques without being distracted by the irrelevant mechanics of any software application.



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