Times Article 002
Drafting and Design, also known as CADD, is the creation of drawings
using a computer program rather than a pen, triangle, square and
protractor. Back when I
started in CADD in the early 1960s, it took a very large room
full of computers to draw even a simple circle or geometric shape, and
the software cost millions of dollars.
Only universities and the biggest companies used CADD back
then, and no one could imagine that just a few decades later there
would be tens of millions of people creating CADD drawings at home and
there were many companies that had the idea that CADD would be a real
killer application, it was a small company called Autodesk that really
revolutionized the industry. In
1980, a group of 13 programmers met in northern California, and
decided to create a computer "automated desk."
This desk would have drawers to store information, a calendar
to schedule meetings, a telephone to communicate with other computers,
and an automated "Etch-A-Sketch" for making drawings.
In fact, this desk would have been the first graphical user
interface (GUI) -- if they had succeeded.
However, the group, which called themselves
"Autodesk," couldn't find anyone who was particularly
interested in a GUI back in those very first days of the IBM Personal
Computer. Remember those
8088 processors with 64 KB of RAM?
they decided to concentrate on the drawing portion, mostly because
they could use it to quickly lay out their programming logic diagrams.
In late 1981, this group attended the very first Computer
Dealers Exposition (COMDEX) in Las Vegas, and was rather astonished to
find that thousands of people wanted to buy their drawing
software (this is back when a successful program might sell 500
copies), which they had named "AutoCAD." So all of a sudden,
AutoCAD was in high demand, and Autodesk was in business.
AutoCAD has been called "one of the most revolutionary computer
products in history," just what did AutoCAD really do to enhance
industrial processes? Let's
take a quick look at how the design process works, both manually and
the Architect has this great idea for a building pop up while he's
slurping down dim sum in Chinatown, so he grabs the nearest
piece of paper (probably the proverbial napkin), and starts sketching
out his new masterpiece. Al
has just started what is called a "conceptual design."
When he gets back to his office, Al grabs a few other people
and refines his overall look-and-feel of the building, working on what
will be his "preliminary design."
Once he finds someone who likes his idea, and is willing to
fork over a few million for construction, Al will create his
"detailed design," which will include construction drawings,
details of the walls, roof, windows, and a few hundred other things.
Part of this design process is getting a structural engineer to
take Al's design and see if it will really stand up if there's a
hurricane, or someone runs into the side of the building.
Another part is having roofers design the roof, masons design
the facade, electricians design the wiring, and so on.
You can see that building design is a very complex
of these design tasks have one thing in common: they're all done using
drawings. And another
common element is that each of the hundreds or thousands of drawings
will be changed, modified, and mangled over and over again as the
architect, construction company, engineers, contractors, and the owner
decide that there's a new and better way to build this masterpiece.
Here is where AutoCAD becomes especially valuable.
a drawing is created manually, it is reviewed and red-lined by
a whole chain of people. Once
enough red lines have appeared, the drawing is completely redrawn.
Let's say that it took the drafter 8 hours to create the first
drawing; when the changes are incorporated, it will take him another 8
hours to manually redraw it. With
AutoCAD, it may take that drafter the same 8 hours to create the
original drawing, but only 30 minutes to make all of the changes!
When you consider that the average architectural drawing is
changed approximately 50 times in the course of design, you can
quickly see that using AutoCAD can save hundreds of drafting hours and
thousands of dollars. Multiply
that by the millions of projects worldwide, and you're starting to
save some real money!
the advantages don't end there. AutoCAD
allows you to create "libraries" of details that are used
and reused; when a drafter inserts a detail (like a window or door),
he is saving perhaps an hour of time, as well as standardizing on
something that has already been identified as applicable on other
projects. When the roofer
needs to make a change to ensure that the roof stays up, he can do it
electronically in AutoCAD, and everyone else on the project can
immediately see what changes have been made.
if Al has decided to create his design using 3D, then he can quickly
create a "rendered" model that looks exactly like the final
building he designed. I'm
sure that most of you have looked at blueprints at some time; were they
perfectly clear to you, and could you visualize exactly what it showed?
With AutoCAD 3D models, you'll see precisely what you'd see if
the model was built right in front of you.
And another Autodesk product, 3D Studio Max, lets you create
film-quality animations where you can walk through your building model
and look around. Wouldn't
it make your job of choosing an architect easier if he showed you a
video animation of your dream house, rather than a batch of blueprints?
are so many advantages to using AutoCAD that even the schools are
getting into the act. As
Autodesk's Area Education Rep for Hawaii, I'm working with Diana Oshiro
and Vicki Kajioka at the Hawaii Department of Education to begin
integrating AutoCAD into K-12 school rooms statewide.
The DOE recently sponsored "Reef Jam '97" in which 19
schoolkids from grades 7-12 designed and built an artificial reef that
was submerged in Kewalo Basin to see if it will help increase the fish
population. Guess what
these kids used to design and visualize their reef prototypes?
AutoCAD! No one told
them that it was a very hard program to use, so after I spent two
hours teaching them the basics, the five teams used AutoCAD very
effectively to create a series of reef designs that were judged by a
panel of experts. The kids
then took the best design features and constructed the final reef from
4,000 pounds of concrete that was donated by Ameron HC&D, and the
reef was placed in the Kewalo research corridor by Hawaiian Electric
divers last August. Even
the professionals were impressed with the kids' skills, and the kids
were ecstatic with using AutoCAD.
also set up a contract with the University of Hawaii and the nine
community colleges so that all their students have access to AutoCAD in
the classrooms. And
full-time students at any school can purchase a "light"
version of the $3,750 AutoCAD for less than $100.
Why does Autodesk sell their educational products so
inexpensively? Well, they
figure that what students learn in school will be what they'll want to
use professionally when they graduate.
And Autodesk must be doing something right, because
AutoCAD now holds a 74 percent share of the microcomputer CADD market,
with more than 2 million packages sold.
latest version of AutoCAD is Release 14, and it runs under Windows 95
and Windows NT. There are
still a couple of student versions that will operate under Windows 3.1,
but there is such a huge speed difference with 32-bit operating systems
that it really pays to upgrade. A
mid-range AutoCAD workstation consists of an Intel 166-MHz Pentium
processor (AutoCAD doesn't use the MMX extensions), 32 MB RAM, a 2GB
EIDE hard-drive, an 8-speed CD-ROM, and a video graphics controller with
at least 2 MB VRAM. This
will allow you to work with AutoCAD drawings up to 16 MB (the 3D model
of the new Hawaii Convention Center was around 8 MB), and new software
features give you real-time zoom and pan.
AutoCAD Release 14 is 50 percent faster than the older versions,
and is bug-free (which is a real bonus to me as an AutoCAD dealer
you would like to see a demonstration of AutoCAD, or if you have topics
that you would like to see discussed in High Tech Times, please
feel free to call me at (808) 521-2259, or you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
my next column, I'm going to discuss how to digitize video and use it in
some interesting ways. See
you next month.