To celebrate the 900th issue of upFront.eZine and its 21st anniversary, I went back two decades -- back, back into our archives to see what was being reported by a one-year-old upFront.eZine in 1996.
At the end of 1995, I had surveyed 40 CAD vendors about their Internet plans. The results was a collective reaction of “Huh?” And so it was in 1996 that we saw the first stirrings of Internet-awareness among CAD vendors.
Autodeskships the c4 service pack ofAutoCADR13, the plagued release that required 11 service packs to repair its problems. The unfortunately-numbered Release 13, on the other hand, set the foundation for the future with objects, ARx, and IFCs -- all still used to this day.
Autodesk andNumeraargue over who has the firstWindows 95logo-compliant CAD software. While AutoCAD was the first to receive the logo from Microsoft,Visual CADDwas the first to ship with the logo.
Numera hands over manufacturing and distribution of Visual CADD toCorel, following which Corel reduces the price to $495.Novellcloses down itsQuattro Prospreadsheet (acquired fromBorland) after sellingWordPerfectto Corel. Later, Corel purchases Quattro Pro from Novell.
Amid the deadline for proposals for VRML v2[virtual reality modeling language],Netscapesays it is convinced that "VRML is going to explode in a big way this year."
This is the year that computing celebrated its 50th birthday, as theENIACcomputer was turned on for the first time on Valentine's Day, 1946. Windows 95 is proving to be a resounding success forMicrosoft's GUI running on top ofDigital Research'sDOS. We would have to wait four more years for Microsoft to merge itsVMS-based NT to make Windows 2000.
SoftSourceis the first to ship a plug-in for Netscape Navigator so that the popular Web browser can display DWG and DXF files. At the time, nobody cared, what with many CAD vendors questioning the need for such a product. Within four years, however, displaying, editing, and manipulating CAD drawings collaboratively in Web browsers becomes a primary focus of most CAD vendors.
Bentley SystemsbundlesMicroStationwith vertical add-on products to concentrate on three specific markets:
Later, it drops MCAD from the list.
Seagateunveils the first 20GB hard drive at a time when 500MB is standard, some ten years after 20MB was considered plenty. By the year 2000, 20GB hard drives become common in most home computers, which will be used to store MP3 music files and JPEG digital photos after Kodak invents the digital camera and Diamond Multimedia popularizes the music player.
Five years earlier, CAD vendors had struggled to adapt their software to Windows. Now in 1996, they begin the struggle all over again, except this time it is with the Internet. This month the A-B-C vendors (Autodesk, Bentley, Cadkey) tentatively stick their toes into murky Internet waters. (Murky, because no one at the time really knew which one of many Internet possibilities was the best one to follow.)
Autodesk announcesDWF[drawing Web format], which later becomes the basis of theWhip! plug-in for Web browsers for viewing drawings online; today Whip is called "A360 Viewer."[I think WHIP was short for "Windows HIgh Performance."]
Bentley licenses technology fromSpyglassto add a Web browser to MicroStation; Spyglass is the same company from whom Microsoft licensed itsInternet Explorer.
Cadkeyannounces SiteSculptor, a shareware VRML authoring tool that uses 3D solids modeling and wireframe models; the product fails in the marketplace.
Neither integrated Web browsers nor VRML become particularly popular, and after a near-20-year battle of DWF againstPDF, Autodesk gave in toAdobe.
Applefires ceoMichael Spinder, and then replaces him with Gilbert Amelio. IMSIships TurboCAD3 for Windows 95.
The box for a later release of CorelCAD
More Web-related developments occur this month as upFront.eZinecomments that "We see this as a sign that the Internet is moving from being Major Media Hype to Just Another Tool for getting your work done."
Bentley releases a beta of its VRML import-export filter.IntergraphsubsidiaryInterCAPconverts its 2D CGM[computer graphics metafile]to a Navigator plug-in. (Intergraph was part-owner of Bentley Systems.)
Numera muses over releasing Visual CADD as an enormous plug-in to allow users to view, edit, and plot Visual CADD drawings in Web browsers; while the plug-in was released as a beta, it never shipped formally. Nevertheless, the move foreshadows ASP [application service provider]software, in which CAD programs run over the Web, such asAlibrein 2000 andOnshapein 2015.
As CAD vendors begin to adapt their file formats and CAD programs to the Internet, industry observers start to question whether VRML has a future in CAD.
In a move that stuns the industry, Cadkey, Inc. sells its Cadkey andCuttingEdgemechanical software toBaystate Technologies, but retains itsDataCADarchitectural software. This event is the first of many mergers and buyouts that occur among CAD vendors over the next decades. Cadkey, Inc. changes back to its original name,Micro Control Systems, saying it wants to focus on developing 3D products for the Internet, such as converting itsCODeCAD development system to JavaCODe; nothing comes of CODe or JavaCODe. Baystate later takes back the Cadkey name, but today is known asKubotek.
Nemetschekannounces a Windows 95 version of theirallPlanFT software for AEC. Until now, the software ran only on Unix and NT systems, creating a market-acceptance problem. The port isn't enough, however, and Nemetschek exits the North American market -- until four years later when it buysVectorworks.
Bentley Systems continues to demonstrate Objective MicroStation 6.0 with gee-whiz features like dragging a symbol from a Web site directly into the CAD drawing; the product never ships. A few years later, this sort of thing became standard in most CAD packages.
TailorMade Softwarereleases a DWF-to-DWG translator; Autodesk never releases such a translator. Corel starts shipping its 3D ACIS-based CorelCAD for $249.
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Parametric Technology Corpgets into the AEC market with the purchase of the object-orientedReflex CADfrom England. The product fails, and PTC changes direction towards product collaboration with its successfulWindchillPLM software.
Microsoft announces that Internet Explorer v4’s user interface will become the future interface for all its Windows applications. While the browser interface indeed becomes the interface of File Manager, it does not for any other application, even for those from Microsoft. Microsoft announces that Windows 97 will ship in a year's time. After a year-long delay, the product is renamed Windows 98.
Vincent Joseph Innocentius Everts, the flamboyant Dutch head ofCyco Software, announces that he is marrying an American psychologist he met over the Internet. At 37, he says he thought he never would get married.
The VRML v2 specification is released at theSiggraphshow, but after taking so long to be developed, few care anymore. The VRML organization later becomes theWeb 3D Consortium.
IDGlaunchesJavaWorldas an online magazine, which continues to this day atwww.javaworld.com. WhileJavadoesn’t take over the world as intended by its inventors atSun Microsystems, it slowly and steadily makes a place for itself as a crucial component and background engine to Web pages, the Android operating system, and so on.
At one time, the price of CadKey was reduced to $495 to spur sales but failed to bring greater profits. Baystate Technologies this month announces that Cadkey 97's price will increase from $795 to $1,195. Later, the price increases further to $2,195, and today the renamedKeyCreatorstands at $3,295. From the failed experiment in ultra-low pricing, CAD vendors learned that low prices do not equate to higher revenues.
Autodesk subsidiaryKinetix(today the Media and Entertainment division) announces a 3D Studio plugin for Netscape Navigator. Pangaea Computersystems releases a DGN plug-in for Netscape Navigator, something Bentley hadn't done. Eagle Point Software acquiresSolidBuilder. A Swedish group releases bCADfor Windows 95.
The USDepartment of Justicebegins to look at how Microsoft conducts its business. After an investigation and lawsuit that lasts years, Microsoft is found guilty of monopoly-like behavior. Meanwhile back in Burma, ownership of modems and fax machines is made a crime punishable by 15 years in prison.
Numera's Web site goes offline and its 800-number is disconnected. Users find out the hard way that the company burned through its investment money in developing a Windows version ofGeneric CADD. TodayGeneral CADD Productssells a Windows version that works like the DOS-based Generic CADD atwww.generalcadd.com
Autodesk announces "its most significant wave of Internet products to date" at Autodesk University in Chicago:
Internet Publishing Kitfor embedding URLs in drawings and saving drawings in DWF format (later integrated into AutoCAD 2000i)
Internet version of theirPartSpeclibrary (later sold off)
WorkCenterdocument management software for the Web (later sold off)
Purchase ofMapGuidefor placing maps on Web sites (later sold off)
Java-enabled Whip plug-in for Web browsers (later made obsolete)
The managers of DataCAD Product Group form a new company, DataCAD LLC. They purchase the DataCAD software from Micro Control Systems (a.k.a. Cadkey, Inc.).
To help improve sales of the problem-plagued AutoCAD Release 13, Autodesk dusts off the '176 Reasons' campaign it had utilized to launch AutoCAD R12. The ad copy reads, "For all those who have been asking the question, 'Can AutoCAD Release really make my life easier?', we offer 176 yes's[sic]." When keen CAD users pour over the list, they discover four reasons are duplicates and 30 others were already available in Release 12.
Corel acquires the source code for Visual CADD from Numera. Later, the code is sold toIMSI(maker ofTurboCAD), then on toTriTools Partners, who continue to develop Visual CADD to this day atwww.tritools.com.
Baystate launches a lawsuit against Bentley Systems and the third-party developer who reverse-engineered Cadkey’s PRT file format. Baystate states it is concerned about the wording used in certain data structures of the translator. Baystate loses the suit.
Bentley announcesEngineering Back Office(later renamedModelServer Publisher) at an eye-watering $24,500. They call it a "multichannel electronic publisher of engineering data," and it operates alongside their ModelServerContinuum, a $37,500 server for creating "a contiguous database of engineering and enterprise data."
Owen WengerdreleasesCADlock, software that locks AutoCAD drawings to make them read-only. The software becomes popular by allowing clients to view and plot AutoCAD drawings, but not edit them. The software ends its run in early 2016.
User interface of an early version of AutoCAD running on Windows
Autodesk announces that all future versions of AutoCAD will be written only for Windows 95/97 and NT, and changes AutoCAD's numbering system to match that of Microsoft's. Meanwhile, Microsoft CEOBill Gate's new vision is that the computer desktop should be indistinguishable from the Internet; the result of his vision is 20 years of malware-infected misery that affects millions of users and costs the economy billions of dollars in lost data and wasted time. Spynet sues Microsoft over the "Internet Explorer" trade name.
Rumors fly thatIBM..., noHewlett-Packard..., no Microsoft plans to buy Autodesk for $1 billion. None of the rumors come true.
The editor ofMicroStation Managermagazine calls on Bentley Systems to "embark on a campaign to convert some of those dissatisfied[AutoCAD R13]users." Bentley instead targets Cadkey users after winning the lawsuit brought against it by Baystate. Bentley markets a "Cadkey Migration Package" that bundles itsPowerDraft,Draft-Pak Mechanical,Cadkey Importer,QuickVision, andEngineering Linkssoftware, along with one year of support for $595.
Autodesk announces that AutoCAD Release 14 will ship in July 1997, and raises the dealer price of AutoCAD by $300. Russian software company Top SystemsreleasesT-FLEX CAD, a 3D modeling system. ZD Labsunveils a new benchmark that uses MicroStation 95 as its CAD component, partly because that version of MicroStation is available on thirteen operating systems.
Following several weeks of rumors, Autodesk andSoftdeskannounce in December a merger agreement valued at $72 million worth of shares. The price had gone up after PTC apparently made a counteroffer. Out of the merger come two entities that irritate Autodesk to this day:IntelliCADand the resulting host of AutoCAD work-alikes, along with theOpen Design Alliance.and its DWG read/write/edit libraries.
Samsung Electronicssays it will ship 1 Gbit DRAM chips in 2005.
(*) A cultural reference. cf. "In the year 2525" by Zager and Evans
And One More Thing...
Reviztosays they're super-excited to invite all to an open beta of Revizto 4. This is one of the rare Web-based startups of the last few years that has actually survived, so that impresses me.
Here's what's new in v4: new markup system; importing 2D sheets directly from Revit, Navisworks and AutoCAD (including PDF sheets), without a model; the elimination of Revizto Editor being required as project sharing and management can be done through Revizto Viewer; improved merging and sync'ing; and automatic daily or weekly exports to Revizto.
There is more at ourWorldCAD Accessblogabout the CAD industry, tips on using hardware and software, and our popular travelogues. You can keep up with the blog through its RSS feed and email alert service. These are some of the articles that appeared onWorldCAD Access recently:
PTCexplains how IoT[Internet of things]needs CAD
Dassaultdescribes its plans forSolidworksand the cloud
Eva Franchkeynote atVectorworksDesign Summit
What we saw at the Vectorworksnight in Chicago
What's new in Vectorworks
Images of new Vectorworks Features
Live blogging: Vectorworks Design Summit Keynote
What's a VectorworksUser Conference?
CAD Vendors Think This Many Customers Want Subscriptions
This is the CAD vendorPTCworries over most
We're onTwitterat@upfrontezine with late-breaking CAD news and wry commentarythroughout the day, such as....
upFront.eZine (@upFronteZine)Mar 20: Why Adobe is so successful at selling subscriptions: $600/yr for ALL their software. Compare: Autodesk wants $360/yr just for AutoCAD LT.
Letters to the Editor
Re: upFront.eZine's 21st Anniversary
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The editor replies:In the real world most drafting is still 2D. Problem is, for CAD vendors, the money is in selling 3D, and so 2D gets overlooked by them.
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