Dennis Robert Austin, one of most significant — and unintentional — contributors to fury-fueled lethality in military history, passed away Sept. 1 at his home in Los Altos, California, family members announced. He was 76.
As the principal software developer of PowerPoint when it debuted in 1987, Austin intended the platform to facilitate improved presentations that would simultaneously put an end to the tediousness of overhead projectors.
And while the Pittsburgh native’s mission was indeed a success, the software soon took on a painfully banal role in workplace environments, one that pits employee against boss, student against teacher, and perhaps most pronounced, junior service member against officer.
Out were impassioned round-table discussions. In their place, bullet points, pie charts, bar graphs and histograms, each touted alongside wearisome concepts like “synergy” and “readiness” by vanilla superiors possessing as much gusto as an end table.
Mandatory trainings highlighted by indecipherable graphics and no fewer than 232,000 narrator-issued “behooves” and “daggons” have, for decades now, taken a sledgehammer to troop morale. In fact, the software became so disliked among some military circles that retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis declared at a 2010 conference, in true Mattis-ian candor, that it “makes us stupid.”