Ghosts of Presentations Past

Over at Duarte, they dug up some business presentations from decades past, long before the age of PowerPoint:

Anyone who has likes to create superdecks would be terrified of  their first takeaway (I’m looking at you, market research agencies):

Slides were treated like they were valuable because they were expensive.
In the 1950’s each element on the slide was crafted by hand, using an array of papers and tapes and a whole heck of a lot of White Out. If you had to pay money for every word and chart you put on your slide, you’d make some very different choices about what information you’d include. Just because our slides are free, doesn’t mean we should fill ‘em to the brim.


I’m amazed at how clean and simple their presentations were, but also at how many conventions have carried over from the analog age (when clip art was literally clipped out) into our digital presentations.  Of course, you don’t see any of the “Title followed by bullet points” slides that are created by PowerPoint defaults.  The expense and effort that went into creating a presentation made presenters thoughtful about their key messages.

But these presentations are also a fascinating look into the changing priorities of businesses.  Where companies now emphasize their global reach, at the time, GE boasted that it was an American company contributing to the American economy.  And rising wages and benefits weren’t discussed as a worrying matter of cost, but as an example of corporate contributions to the middle class.  The American industrial base was at the cutting edge and the envy of world economies.  But just as things stay the same, they also change: Duarte found an IBM presentation from literally decades ago that features the same buzzwords (virtual storage!  world monetary crisis!) that we see today.

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