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Electronic Design

What's All This Analog PowerPoint Stuff, Anyhow?

Those of you who have attended my lectures know that I usually say, "Some companies—such as Oracle and Teradyne—have outlawed PowerPoint. When PowerPoint is outlawed, only outlaws will have PowerPoint." Then I point out that I am the Analog Outlaw, because I use "Analog PowerPoint."

Last night on the plane to Copenhagen, I ran into another engineer, Dave Allingham of Satelcom in Ascot, England, who uses Analog PowerPoint, just as I do.

Exactly what is Analog PowerPoint? It's the use of hand-drawn plastic foils on an overhead projector. Obviously, this is an "obsolete" technology. But when everybody else uses PowerPoint these days, this is a good way to get people's attention. It's not the same old, boring PowerPoint foils. Now, my friends all know that I take pride in making my foils just sloppy enough, but not (usually) too sloppy. I suppose you could letter your foils up any way you want, neat or sloppy. You could even use a "ransom-note font." But you want to make your foils distinctive. And this is one of the best ways.

One of the best things about Analog PowerPoint is that you are always prepared to make up a new foil to illustrate another point—-or to make up a foil to answer somebody's question. Most PowerPoint users don't have a good solution for that.

Not every foil has to be a complete statement. Sentence fragments often work quite well. And little quick pictures, too. Not every foil has to be displayed for more than 10 seconds. But I do not subscribe to the idea that a 20-minute lecture should take just 15 slides. People who make slides too busy are largely responsible for the unpopularity of PowerPoint. Further, many people resent that the effort to make a fancy PowerPoint presentation is greater than the thinking that went into it.

Of course, one weakness of Analog PowerPoint is that its size and weight are linearly proportional to the number of foils. This week, I am using about 104 foils to present for 45 minutes, plus a couple dozen alternate foils for special occasions, and a couple dozen blanks. I think the sum of this weight is almost three pounds. That makes my knapsack kind of heavy. If I bring 400 foils to present for three hours, that gets downright heavy! But it's still lighter than a laptop computer, and more compact. (Be sure to number your foils, so if they get out of sequence, they can be straightened up.)

Analog PowerPoint can use art from any imaginable place, like newspapers, magazines, paragraphs, or notes; plus photographs, hand drawings, and typed text. Or, you can take other PowerPoint drawings and mark them up with red arrows and blue labels, as you like. You can superimpose one drawing atop another, such as a hand-sketched label atop a figure—added on at the last minute. Of course, getting these materials into a proper scale requires a photocopier with expand/shrink capabilities. You need a copier that won't go berserk when you feed the plastic blanks through it. But that's not so hard to find these days. For certain effects, you'll want access to a color copier. But these are more commonly available now.

Also, you need a friend who is a good speller and a good editor to proofread your foils. That's because there is no good spellchecker for Analog PowerPoint. The same is true for "Digital" PowerPoint. To be fair, I should point out that the cost, expense, and effort of making a real PowerPoint presentation may be justifiable in case there is a huge viewing audience.

So this is the story of how Analog PowerPoint got to be the way it is today. Try it. You'll like it! And always remember, "If you can't be the best, be different!" And even if you are the best—be different.

Comments invited!
[email protected] —or:

Mail Stop D2597A, National Semiconductor
P.O. Box 58090, Santa Clara, CA 95052-8090

P.S. Hey, it may be April 1 when you read this, but I'm not fooling. You guys who have seen my lectures know that this is how I present good stuff./ rap

TAGS: Components
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