My experience using CAD started back in high school and continued with some exposure during college. The bulk of my experience, though, has come from working in an architectural office. I have been exposed to several programs over the years and I do not think I have found the perfect one.
I first remember using a CAD on an Apple II back in high school. I don't remember what the program was called (it came on a 5.25-inch floppy disk) but I do remember it came with an 8 1/2" x 11" pen plotter. It was cool drawing simply lines and shapes with a digitizer and seeing it printed on paper. It sounds silly today, but back in the early ’80’s it was truly amazing!
In the late ‘80’s, early ‘90’s at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo there was only one design class that used a computer. I avoided it because the professor had a reputation of working his students to death. With a nickname of “Smokin’ Joe” (he didn't smoke) I thought it best to avoid his class. That class was a third year design lab and the program being used was VersaCAD. The CAD class I had was set up by my second year design professor as a third year design lab. It used four Macintosh IIci’s and Version 3 of ArchiCAD. It did not duplicate hand drafting, but used the power of the computer to actually model your designs so that they could be viewed in 3D. ArchiCAD’s method was the future of CAD. Those of us in the class didn’t realize it at the time, but we were doing what would today be called Building Information Modeling or as it is more commonly referred to, BIM.
After college, I was back hand drafting (yes kids we used to use pencils, actually lead holders, and vellum) and it was not until six months after I started my first job that I actually sat in front of a computer and drafted. That experience started with me sitting in one of the principal’s offices using his computer to go through the manual. Dry stuff, but I learned the basics and was soon given my own PC. At first the firm only drew floor plans in CAD, leaving the more complicated elevations to be drawn by hand. Why? I don’t remember, but eventually everything was done in the computer.
That firm used a program called DataCAD. It was DOS based and we used something called XTreeGold to manage those eight character named files. These were the early days, people. One of the cool things I eventually used DataCAD for was to actually model the house. Nothing BIM-like, just flat planes that DataCAD could then take a “snapshot” of which produced the backgrounds for the front, rear and side elevations. Fairly advanced for 1995. DataCAD was far from perfect and did not it become the industry “CAD standard,” but for better or worse it set the precedent for my understand of CAD.
The program that became the standard is, of course, AutoCAD. The big daddy of CAD programs and I have had very little experience with it. After leaving the firm that used DataCAD (they eventually left DataCAD for AutoCAD) my career evolved into more of Project Management role where I did little drafting. Ideal, right? Well, it sure did not help when interviewing at other offices as I did not have AutoCAD experience, but that is a tale for another post. Ironically, my involvement with AutoCAD came with becoming a beta tester for the first release of AutoCAD for Mac.
I’ll explore that and other CAD programs I’ve used in part two of CAD: A Journey in Time, Part 2.