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.”
Of course, Austin had no way of knowing that his creation, once in the hands of the acronym-loving, head-exploding graphics enthusiasts dwelling in the Defense Department’s ivory tower, would be dragged through the mud and into the very fires of Mount Doom.
And yet, a prominent silver lining does exist. After all, one way to ensure the preservation of the world’s finest fighting force is to keep troops perpetually seething. And few things are capable of accelerating an E-3 toward hypertension faster than a three-hour PowerPoint presentation on motor pool maintenance or — *deep inhale* — the “Integrated Defense Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Life Cycle Management System,” or IDATLLCMS (probably).
By crafting a fury capable of fueling the destruction of even the most indomitable enemy, Austin may very well have inadvertently made himself into one of the greatest sponsors of military lethality the U.S. has ever known.
For that, we salute.
Rest in Power(Point). Next slide.
Navy Times reporter Geoff Ziezulewicz contributed to one sentence in this story, or NTRGZCTOSITS.
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.