Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Software Graveyard: Harvard Graphics & Zenographics Mirage

As is obvious, PowerPoint is the undisputed king of presentation software (OpenOffice's Impress is trying, and Google is getting into the act with Google Presentations, but they are currently still only minor pretenders to the throne). But before PowerPoint, there was Harvard Presenatation Graphics.

Actually, there still is. But you don't hear about how someone is going to do a Harvard Graphics presentation. Still Harvard was the first. Before Windows came out, it was the software you used to create a presentation. Similar in design to PowerPoint (though I don't recall if it had the outline feature), it let you create presentations even before there was a good way to present them. But it remained the leader until Microsoft bundled PowerPoint with Office. Few people were willing to buy a stand-alone program for the one or two presentations they made a year, but if it was part of the Office Suite, anyway, you had it and learned to use it. Harvard Graphics just faded and was forgotten.

I doubt anyone remembers Zenographics Mirage; I only know about it because I used it for several years to create slides (the type you projected in a Kodak Carousel). I worked at a graphic design firm, and created what would now be PowerPoint slides for presentations (GE was our biggest customer). Mirage (and its graphic entry software, Ego) used a digitizer to trace images. I would put them onto the digitizer board and touch it with a pen to indicate the image. Mirage/Ego was not good with curves at all (It took me weeks to get a decent version of the GE logo* when they changed it**)

But Mirage was difficult for the average user to use, and you had to create each slide individually. Even such things as aligning text was a chore. It probably was never going to be popular software, but it did the job in the days before more advanced software was developed.

*Known in Schenectady and "the meatball." There was also the "flying meatball" with the words General Electric and the logo in the middle.

**The logo was changed in the late 70s. No one outside of GE ever noticed the changes.