Two important things happened in 1948; the first stored-program electronic digital computer successfully executed its first program, and I was born.
I was interested in drawing from a very early age. I would flatten paper sacks and draw comic strips on them on the kitchen floor. In school; art, science and math were my favorite subjects. I saved my allowance to buy a book on perspective drawing when I was in the fifth grade. When given the opportunity to take an art class in junior high school, I already knew most of what they were teaching. In high school I enrolled in a drafting class. This was before CAD. It was the age of triangles and t-squares. I loved it. I took 3 years of drafting in high school. The third year was architectural drafting. I graduated from Permian High School, in Odessa, Texas, in 1967.
I then attended the University of Texas, majoring in Architecture. After two years of study, I left school to support my new family and began a career as an architectural draftsman. I enjoyed doing construction drawings but found that I had a real talent for creating perspective renderings, both watercolor and pen & ink. I worked evenings and weekends one semester so I could take classes in Art at the University of Texas.
CAD (kd) acronym for computer-aided design
In 1973 I went to work in the property development department of Zale Corporation, where I worked for the next 9 years. In 1979 Zales got a CAD system. This was the first computer I had ever seen. It was a refrigerator sized “minicomputer”. It included 4 storage tube work stations which used thumb-wheels to move the crosshair across the screen, and a pool-table sized flat-bed plotter. This was one of only around 100 architectural instillations in the US. I could see the amazing potential for CAD and I decided at that time to dedicate my life’s work to the productive use of CAD in architecture. I worked the night shift so I could take a semester of computer science at the local junior collage. I learned everything I could about computers and programming. I soon became the CAD Manager. I supervised the CAD users and implemented standards and procedures. I also created custom programming for the system. One of the programs I wrote reduced the time required to draw a store from 40 hours to 9 hours.
In 1982 Intergraph introduced a new CAD system for architects. I went to work for them to demonstrate their software and provide training and technical support to end users.
In 1984 I left Intergraph to go to work for a smaller CAD company called Sigma Design. I felt that what architects needed was a less expensive CAD system that was dedicated specifically to architecture. Intergraph was having me demonstrate more of their other applications and less to architects. I am glad that I was exposed to these other fields (P&ID diagrams, printed circuit board design, numerical control machine operation, oil exploration, and others) but I wanted to stay with the architectural profession. Sigma Design only sold to architects and their software was written specifically for their needs.
At this time all CAD was sold as turn-key systems. You would buy the hardware, software, training and support all from a single vendor. And they were very expensive. A typical four station system sold for around $250,000. In 1984 a program came along that changed all of that. It was Auto-CAD. This was the first CAD program that could run on the “Personal Computer” that IBM was selling. You could buy a CAD program that “provided 90% of the capabilities for 10% of the price”. All of the other CAD companies then scrambled to come up with a PC version of their software. A version of Intergraph’s software that ran on PCs became Bentley’s MicroStation. Sigma came out with a version of their software that ran on PCs, and they started selling it through dealers around the country instead of directly to architects. It ran on a PC version of the Unix operating system called Xenix. My role changed to one of providing dealers with software training and support.
In 1988 Sigma had a company wide layoff due to slow sales and I started providing independent CAD Consulting under the name CAD Directions. I was retained by NTS (a major real estate development and management company in Louisville Kentucky) for 9 months to plan and implement their CAD operation. I trained the operators to use the new CAD system, created 3D Model and fly-around presentations of new homes, procured hardware and software, provided NTS with the ability to do 2-D design, 3-D modeling and Video imaging, directed personnel in developing an as-built CAD database of their commercial properties, enabled their personnel to provide automated tenant fit-out cost estimates and create 3-D walk-throughs of their office designs, wrote custom software to provide HVAC, electrical, and inventory tracking information, established a set of standards and procedures with information on what to do, and how to do it, complete with documentation on all custom software, managed the CAD personnel on a day-to day basis and implemented work-flow procedures and revision-control. In short, I was their CAD Manager.
CADD (kd) acronym for computer-aided design and drafting
Sometime during the 1980’s to differentiate their software from the others, some CAD companies started spelling CAD with two D’s. This was just a marketing strategy and didn’t indicate any real difference in the software. I always thought it to be a little pretentious.
In 1989 I accepted an offer to become the CAD Manager for AAFES (Army and Air Force Exchange Service) in Dallas, Texas. AAFES is a joint military activity that builds and runs the Post and Base Exchanges for the military. Working in their store planning department I was in control of training and supporting their CAD system operators. My official title was “CADD Analyst“. While working there, AAFES switched from ARRIS CAD to AutoCAD and an architectural add-on application that later became ADT (Architectural Desktop). AutoCAD grew to become the de-facto standard for use by architectural design firms nationwide.
I worked at AAFES until, in 1993, I was approached again by Sigma Design. They had recently sold their CAD system to Wal-Mart and needed me to oversee the instillation, train their personnel and provide whatever other services they might require to insure a successful implementation. Basically they needed me to be Wal-Mart’s CAD Manager while they got on their feet.
I worked with Wal-Mart and Sigma Design until, in 1994, the company had another company-wide layoff, this time due to bankruptcy. Again, I was working for myself as a CAD Consultant, and have been ever since.
Architectural CAD has changed a lot in the last 15 years, and so has my company. At first much of my work was supporting users with Sigma’s software. One architect, who bought Sigma software based on the strength of my demonstration, later purchased Sigma Design, Inc. out of bankruptcy and renamed the software ARRIS CAD. He contracted with me to help develop their training materials and give the first demonstration of their newly released software to their dealers. I also created the training videos that they included with that product.
My business slowly evolved to working less with ARRIS CAD and more with AutoCAD. After a while, I found that less of my time was spent doing training and support and more was spent creating production drawings. Then for a time I was mostly doing photorealistic renderings.
BIM (bm) acronym for building information modeling
A few years ago AutoCAD’s company, Autodesk, purchased the architectural software program Revit. Autodesk adopted the acronym BIM as a marketing term and it has caught on. It was intended to separate Revit from its competitors, but now practically all architectural CAD companies claim some BIM capability. Revit is so different from AutoCAD or ADT that many people that use Revit refer to it as BIM and to everything else as CAD. Although Revit isn’t the only, or even the first, BIM program, it has been the most successful. Like Sigma Design many years ago, Revit was designed for use by architects, and it shows. I am a real fan of this software and have been using it for about 5 years now. I have converted both commercial and residential projects from AutoCAD to Revit. I have also created Revit families for architectural building material manufacturers.
Architectural CAD has come a long way and no one knows what the future holds. It is a dynamic and exciting field and I intend to stay abreast of the technology as it evolves. I see it as a blend of art, math and science made possible by two things; an electronic digital computer, and a CAD Manager like me.
Ronny Hart, CAD Manager