History of CADD and PLM

A participative work in progress

Of course it is presumptuous of me, a mere techno-dilettante and meme-sower, to undertake such a project. Well, don't just complain--contribute! I will gladly acknowledge contributions. (But this is my site, so I will write the commentary! :-))

Some general issues: It is silly to try to separate CADD developments from those of computers and computer graphics in general, especially in the early days. So with no apologies, milestones from these overlapping areas are also listed here.

I've always spelled "CADD" with two "D"'s, because design and drafting are different activities.

Without research, just from memory, here's a bunch of memory-jogging names and words to start us off. Please send me people names, company names, dates, stories, links, and especially corrections. Let's do this well.

  • 1951 - EAI produces analog flatbed plotter.
  • Joe Gerber starts producing plotters--later, great mechanical CADD systems.
  • APT
  • 1959 - CalComp founded.
  • 1961 - Ivan Sutherland's brilliant Sketchpad PhD thesis at MIT. Ivan just about did it all for us. Read the thesis, or the paper he gave at the Spring Joint Computer Conference a couple of years later, and you will see he defined almost all possible graphical human interface issues.
  • Wang plotters.
  • Steve Coons, Coons Patch
  • Sylvan Chasen, FEA
  • John Swanson
  • IBM 2250 strokewriting display
  • Information Displays Inc. (IDI)
  • Vector Graphics
  • Adage
  • PDMS, Plant Design Management System from Michael Leesley
  • PDGS, Product Design Graphics System from Ford
  • CADD from McDonnell Douglass
  • Northrop NCAD (later sued by MD? Outcome?)
  • E&S graphics hardware, later CDRS software, acquired much later by PTC
  • 1963 - United Computing founded in Torrance, CA by John Wright and two others.
  • 1964 - Dr. Pat Hanratty, DAC (design augmented by computer) project, GM
  • 1967 -- Dr. Jason R. Lemon founds SDRC in Cincinnati
  • 1968 - Science Accessories Corporation (later SAC) releases sonic digitizer.
  • 1969 - The Tektronix DVST (direct-view storage tube).
  • SYMAP, line-printer mapping from Harvard
  • DIME, US Census Bureau dual independent map encoding, for low-budget digitizing
  • All kinds of stuff in Cambridge, England, leading to Medusa, RUCAPS, GDS, LaserScan, and other amazing systems. I need a lot of help here.
  • Outstandingly lucid explanation of Sweepnik, the bubble-chamber-photograph-analysis system that LaserScan was founded to promote: http://www-outreach.phy.cam.ac.uk/camphy/sweepnik/sweepnik_index.htm (Many thanks, Seb Lessware!)
  • Also in France: The birth of CATIA, Euclid, and Euklid (later Systrid).
  • Bendix digitizing table.
  • PLOT-10, the Tektronix graphics library
  • Houston Instrument
  • Hershey fonts
  • MAGI founded; releases SynthaVision, first commercial solid modeler.
  • Ron Resch modifies Calcomp flatbed plotter to fabricate huge Pisanka, Ukrainian Easter egg commissioned by Canadian village near Edmonton to commemorate 150 years of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
  • Dimensional Systems, Inc.
  • First edition of Newman & Sproull on computer graphcs
  • Princeton Electronic Products scan-converter storage tube.
  • 1969 - Tom says: "Applicon was founded in 1969..."
    Check my website for more info:
  • 1969 - United Computing ships UNIAPT, minicomputer (eg, PDP-8) version of APT.
  • 1969 -- Dr. Russ Henke joins SDRC, launches SDRC Computer Software Business.
  • 1970 - Scriptographics (later Summagraphics) founded.
  • MOVIE.BYU
  • Synercom founded.
  • MDSI
  • Auto-trol founded.
  • Calma founded.
  • M&S Computing (later Intergraph) founded.
  • Tektronix desktop computers.
  • ESRI founded.
  • Wang desktop computers.
  • Animation at NYIT
  • DEC graphics displays.
  • Houston Instrument.
  • Matrix Instruments.
  • Dunn.
  • Pierre Bezier
  • Xynetics plotter.
  • Computer-output microfilm plotters from Information International Inc. (III), Singer, Dicomed
  • Cliff Stewart's PDP-15 CADD system
  • 1972 - Computervision founded as spin-offs of MIT labs.
  • Data Technology builds Interact, combined interactive digitizer/plotter, for CV
  • SIGGRAPH founded
  • 1973 - M&S sells first mapping system to Nashville
  • CADTrak--later XTrak--interactive PDMS workstation. Company patents "exclusive or" hardware function, required for, eg, non-destructive cursor. Shuts operations down & collects royalties.
  • United Computing shows UNI-GRAPHICS (later "Unigraphics") at SME's CAD/CAM II show in Detroit. System based on Pat Hanratty's ADAM.
  • 1976 - Joel Orr founds Computer Graphics Newsletter; it is acquired in 1978 by Randy Stickrod, who turns it into Computer Graphics World
  • ESC minicomputer CAD from Louisiana
  • 1977 - IBM contracts with Lockheed to market CADAM
  • CG77 - One of first major computer graphics conferences held by Joel Orr's Jerusalem Systems in Milwaukee
  • Commander Richard Schulman convenes computer graphics experts under auspices of ANSI X3H3 committee
  • NCGA founded
  • 1980 - IBM contracts with Dassault Systemes to market CATIA.
  • Stewart Maws founds CAD/CAM Alert, edited by Joel Orr
  • Steve Wolf founds CAD Report
  • Ken & BJ Anderson found The Anderson Report
  • Ed Forrest founds A-E-C Automation Newsletter
  • Tom Lazear founds T&W Systems and releases CADapple on the Apple IIe.
  • T&W Systems releases VersaCAD
  • Mike Riddle writes MicroCAD, later Interact, ultimately AutoCAD; asks John Walker to market it
  • 1981 -- Peter Smith and Livingston Davies found Micro-Control Systems to build cheap 3D digitizers; shortly thereafter, release CADKEY, the first all-3D PC CAD product.
  • 1982 -- IBM announces Series/1-based drafting system with vector displays, developed in Denver (name? particulars?) Later converted to PC as IBMDraft
  • Fundamentals of Interactive Computer Graphics, co-authored by Andries van Dam and J.D. Foley, was published by Addison-Wesley
  • 1983 -- Applicon introduces BRAVO!, first 32-bit VAX-based mechanical design/NC system (courtesy of Russ Henke's MEM team). FORTUNE Product of  the Year.
  • 1984 - Autodesk founded by John Walker
  • ALGOR, cheap FEA, Mike Bussler
  • CADPLAN
  • Graftek spins out of Auto-trol, promises integrated solids/surfaces/2d/CAM. Later acquired by Burroughs.
  • Unicad, spun out of Graftek--a CADD library for developers, which didn't survive.
  • Littleton Daniel founds company that releases a log cabin design system for the Tektronix desktop computer; later, ports to HP. Company bought by AM Bruning. Subsequently sold to Holguin Systems, which itself gets bought by Accugraph. Programmers funded by Swiss distributor to found what is today Visionael, in Tulsa.
  • Vulcan, Dave Albert
  • Jim Blinn
  • Alvy Ray Smith, Ed Catmull, who later found Pixar
  • ATP, Automation Technology Products, spun out of CALMA by Bob Bender--almost the first successful CIM story.
  • Apple
  • 1986 - Keith Bentley founds Bentley Systems Inc.
  • Diehl Graphsoft releases MiniCAD for the Macintosh
  • Cericor releases first object-oriented CAD (for schematics); company later acquired by HP
  • Univac's foray into CADD, with Japanese system
  • Cadnetix, Daisy (combined, then later acquired by Intergraph)
  • VLSI
  • Mentor Graphics
  • CAMAX
  • SmartCAM
  • Data General markets EZCad, Australian product; later buys company
  • MasterCAM
  • IBM/SOM AES architectural CADD
  • ModaCAD
  • Skok Systems
  • CDI
  • octrees
  • Arieh Feldman leaves Gerber, returns to Israel with a Cromemco 16-bit Z80 computer to found Cimatron
  • Also in Israel, ACA founded, releases ARC for IBM mainframes (written in APL)--later ARC+ for PCs
  • CADVANCE blooms out of CADPLAN
  • Engineered Software releases PowerCAD for the Macintosh
  • Dassault acquires CADAM.
  • HumanCAD
  • MapInfo
  • American Small Business Computers releases DesignCAD
  • PTC founded.
  • Caddie, from South Africa
  • ICAD
  • Wisdom Systems
  • Spatial Technology founded; releases ACIS
  • Ashlar Vellum
  • Dave Weisberg founds Engineering Automation Report, later acquires Anderson Report & A-E-C Automation News
  • Daratech founded by Charles Foundyller
  • 1987 -- First live "Graphical NC Verification" software from Russ Henke's ATP, using SGI & SUN workstations
  • 1989 - CALMA Inc. is acquired by Computervision. At this time, Calma has its DDM system on Unix running in beta test. CV is later acquired by Prime which renaims itself shortly after the deal to "Computervision" (by the way, at this time, we used to call CV as "Horrorvision...)
  • 1991 - (?) Joint venture between CV and Daimler Benz AG to develop a new class of CAD system blending Daimler Benz' 3D modeller OG Surf with the Pelorus concept of CV. The venture fails one year after the begin. Parallel to Pelorus, CV develops a new kind of PDM system (I lost the name) which is mainly the origin of WindChill of PTC (when PTC acquired CV). (Thanks, Sando Vajna!)
  • 199? - Autodesk acquires Engineer's Workbench.
  • 199? - Autodesk acquires Generic CADD
  • IMSI releases TurboCAD
  • Brad Holtz publishes first CAD Rating Guide
  • Virtus WalkThrough
  • 1993 - Autodesk acquires MicroEngineering Solutions
  • 1994? - StereoLithography
  • Visual CADD
  • SolidWorks
  • Visio
  • Autodesk aquires Woodbourne with their parametric solid modeler - precursor of Mechanical Desktop
  • VRML as 3D-Internet file format goes public
  • 1995 - TriSpectives
  • First OpenGL graphics cards for WindowsNT
  • 1996 - Autodesk acquires SoftDesk.
  • Mike Seely founds CIMWorld on Web
  • Intergraph creates Solid Edge
  • AutoCAD 13 comes with object-oriented kernel for 2D and 3D and API
  • Dassault goes public
  • 1997 - Dassault acquires SolidWorks.
  • Visio releases IntelliCAD, an inexpensive AutoCAD replacement
  • 1998 - Instrument Design Works by Najmah Engineering Software
  • Bentley ProjectBank demonstrated
  • IronCAD
  • GSSL (CAMWorks, Pro-E to SolidWorks converter, FeatureWorks, The ACIS Healing Husk, numerous translators, etc.)
  • Rhino
  • DP Esprit 98
  • Unigraphics Solutions acquires Solid Edge division from Intergraph
  • Cyon Research formed; acquires Engineering Automation Report from Dave Weisberg, CADwire.net from Rick Stavanja
  • 1999 -- Autocad 2000
  • Calcomp fails
  • IronCAD announces dual support for ACIS and ParaSolid
  • Dassault acquires SmartSolutions
  • 2001 - EDS acquires SDRC, folds it and UGS into EDS PLM Solutions
  • 2002 - Autodesk acquires Revit
  • Bentley files for IPO; later withdraws filing
  • 2005 - UGS acquires Tecnomatix
  • Cyon Research acquires CAD Report from Steve Wolfe
  • Agile acquires Cimmetry
  • Autodesk acquires Alias
  • 2006 - Dassault acquires ABAQUS, then MatrixOne
  • Google acquires @Last (SketchUp)

10-13-2010 Mike Causer, who was there, sent me this great summary of CIS history:

Here is something I wrote recently, mainly concerning the platforms
Medusa ran on.

The founders and many early employees of CIS worked together at the
CADCenter in Cambridge, England, on a project called Plant Design
Management System.  This was developed and ran for many years on Prime
minicomputers and Tektronix storage tube displays.  At the founding of
CIS there were already very good working relationships with Prime and
Tektronix, and both companies were generous in their support of the new
business.  So the first versions of Medusa ran on this hardware too.

The Tektronix tubes were monochrome, and the first colour raster display
for Medusa was the Lexidata, repackaged and re-badged by Prime.  The
list price of a colour display was $100,000!  Other display
manufacturers followed, in particular Westward, an English company.
The tablet used for command entry was about 24" by 15", made by
Summagraphics.   Larger tablets were also used to digitise other
drawings and data.

There was a demand for DEC (Digital Equipment Corp) computers because
they had a bigger market share than Prime, and so Medusa was ported to
VAX/VMS, around 1982/83.  It never ran under Unix on the VAXes.  At that
time the new type of microprocessor-based "workstations" was starting to
appear, and CIS was looking hard at them.  After ComputerVision
purchased CIS they decided to licence the manufacture of Sun
Microsystems machines, although an independent CIS would probably have
selected the SUN architecture manufactured by Cadlinc, with whom it had
long-standing business and personal ties.  

The Sun version of Medusa, with on-screen menus and no tablet, was first
shipped to customers late in 1984, under the name ComputerVision
Drafting/3000, available worldwide.  It had full 3D and parametric
function, although the menus were not completely developed.  None of
CIS's or CV's salespeople understood the new technology, and although
this style did turn out to be the long-term future of drafting it wasn't
a success in revenue terms.  The Drafting/3000 name was dropped and the
system sold as CIS Medusa 6 running on a MedusaStation (still a
re-badged licence-built Sun) from 1985.  

As with the minicomputers there was a demand for DEC workstations and
Medusa 7 ran on them with the Ultrix operating system from 1988 as well
as the Suns, Primes and VAXes.  Other workstation-class machines were
added, OSF/1, Primix, and RiscOs (which was a MIPS system re-badged by
Prime).   These were very poor sellers, if indeed any were sold.

Medusa 12, the amalgamation of CIS Medusa 7 and Prime Medusa 5, ran on
all the same hardware, and wasn't a huge functional jump from version 7.
The minicomputer-based versions continued to be the best sellers.  By
this time the Sun version ran on the Sparc range too.

Commands were not confined to the menus, in fact the menus supplied
standard command-line instructions through the same channel to the
working programs.  In addition macros could be recorded, or written
outside and run later, and single-key command mapping could be turned
on.  This feature was very useful on Tektronix displays but was rarely
used later.  The language later known as BaCIS1 was known to CIS's
customers as Lcis, "Supersyntax" was the Prime name for it.  It had no
connection with BASIC at all, and in many ways was technically much more
advanced than BASIC.  In particular the use of GOTO was introduced by
Prime and was never used, nor needed, by the CIS version.  The name
BaCIS1 was created when its intended replacement, a sophisticated Object
Oriented language, was developed and called BaCIS2.  That was at Medusa
6 or 7, although BaCIS2 wasn't included in 2D/3D drafting products until
13 (specifically so the new user-interface could be developed).