How can I create a PowerPoint presentation that looks like it's from 1994?
January 3, 2012 4:28 PM   Subscribe

How should I go about preparing a historically accurate / vintage PowerPoint presentation? I would like to conform to the abilities and (potentially nightmarish) limitations of, say, PowerPoint 4.0 (1994).

Okay, help. This is practically archaeology at this point. And I would really like to show these presentations on something appropriate, like a 486 laptop. Any tips on general strategy? Or specifics? Are there Windows 3.1 emulators? Where would I even find PowerPoint 4.0? Or a functioning 486 laptop?

Or should I just give up on using historically accurate materials, use contemporary tools, and hunt down as many 'sample decks' from the time period as possible to get a sense for what they looked like? Where would I even find those?
posted by sixswitch to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ugh - this will be difficult.

As for finding PowerPoint decks - perhaps simpler. I have found when searching on Google, I can add a search element "filetype:ppt" and it will return results scoped to that kind of file (in the advanced search, there is a drop-down, but you do not have to limit yourself to that). Admittedly, I am looking for more current info/samples, so my search is typically "filetype:pptx") - this works for Word, PDF, Excel and a few other formats.

Perhaps, try using the "year" as your primary keyword term to search for, and then scoping to filetype:ppt ?

So - for instance:

However - that may simply get you files that have the term "1994" in them.

Personally, I feel you won't find great examples of what each version "could do", simply because most people cannot even do that with the current generation... and, well there are some schools of thought that say presentations should be as simple as possible...
posted by jkaczor at 4:35 PM on January 3, 2012

You can actually run these old programs. Yes, in emulators. Either a virtual machine or perhaps a full-on emulator. The hardest part is probably finding a copy.
posted by krilli at 4:41 PM on January 3, 2012

Can I ask why you want powerpoint and not Hypercard... which if wikipedia is to believed was predominant at the time.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 4:46 PM on January 3, 2012

Wasn't Hypercard a Mac-only product? The question is about Windows on 486 machines.
posted by dfriedman at 4:55 PM on January 3, 2012

Best answer: Don't forget about Harvard Graphics, which was on the wane in 1994, having dominated DOS-era presentation software, but still in use. Re the machine, there are numerous vintage 486s on eBay... if you've got time to hunt, you might find one with the pertinent software pre-installed.
posted by carmicha at 6:53 PM on January 3, 2012

What's your timeframe? You might be better off and have an easier time finding a version of this book and just adapting from there [I can get it for you right now from paperback swap for basically free if that appeals to you]. This is the sort of thing that if it were me, I'd get on Projects and pay someone $25 to make something really simple using some ancient brick machine that they have in their basement.
posted by jessamyn at 6:54 PM on January 3, 2012

I think I have a bunch of PP business presentations pronted from '92-'98. I would have to sanitize them, but memail me if you want me to scan/send you a couple. Any elements besides 4.0 you're looking for in particular?
posted by cocoagirl at 7:24 PM on January 3, 2012

Best answer: If you are adamant about doing this the "authentic" way, emulators (including the free VirtualBox) will easily let you run Windows 3.x and PowerPoint of that vintage. You can still find these sometimes on eBay, or if you don't mind, they're actually not hard to find on Usenet as sort of historical anomalies.

But! What I'd recommend: Use any modern version of PowerPoint and download the original templates from Microsoft itself (Pack 2 and Pack 3 are must-haves as well!).

n.b. You'll need a Windows install to run the executables which auto-uncompress to yield these templates, but when you're done, you'll have the authentic original templates for your legal use. Enjoy!
posted by anildash at 7:32 PM on January 3, 2012

Best answer: I see on ebay there are a few listings for original Office 95 CD packs available cheap. This includes Powerpoint for Windows 95, which is basically just Powerpoint 4 very slightly adapted with the 95 interface (and compiled for 32 bit). So, the functionality and file format would be nearly exactly the same. And you could install just the Powerpoint part.

And it will probably run under XP/Vista/7 using XP compatibility mode.


For the computer, you could contact to see if they have any 486 laptops left. They probably don't, but it is possible. I have seen 486 laptops in large thrift shops within the past year.

FWIW I have an old special graphics program written for 3.1 which I run directly on W7-64. It works! But it crashes after a save. But it gets the specialized job done on the rare occasion.
posted by caclwmr4 at 11:38 PM on January 3, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the ideas everyone! Definitely got some good leads here.

jessamyn & cocoagirl -- thanks for the offers! I am going to have a go with anil's template suggestion first, but may be in touch depending on how that goes...
posted by sixswitch at 7:47 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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