Chapter 10: CAD/CAM/CADD/CAE

10.6 Autodesk / Micro-Control Systems


Autodesk employees (founder John Walker in center)

Autodesk was founded in 1982 by John Walker. He and the other 15 co-founders set off to develop five different desktop automation applications. They did this with the notion that one of the applications would take off and be developed further. That product turned out to be AutoCAD, which was based on a CAD program written in 1981 by Mike Riddle called MicroCAD, changed later to Interact. It was shown at the COMDEX trade show in Las Vegas as the first CAD program in the world to run on a PC.

Autodesk products

AutoCAD is a Computer Assisted Design (CAD) software package for 2D and 3D design and drafting. It originally ran only on Microsoft operating systems. Versions for Unix and Apple Macintosh were released, but these met with limited market acceptance and were later dropped. Initially for mechanical engineers, it was extended and was very widely used by architects and other design professionals. Its file formats (DWG and its ASCII equivalent, AutoCAD DXF) became the default standard for CAD packages. Version 1.0 was released in December 1982.

AutoCAD running on PC

AutoCAD 2004 was released in March 2003. A lower-cost version, AutoCAD LT was first introduced in 1993. Compared with its more expensive sibling, LT lacked the AutoLISP programming language and other programming interfaces, some 3D capability, and a few other features.

CADENCE magazine cover

In 1986 CADENCE magazine was established for the AutoCAD user community. It would become the world’s largest independent CAD publication. In 1989 Autodesk purchased Generic Software and the Generic CADD program.[1]

Micro-Control Systems

In 1985 Peter Smith and Livingston Davies founded Micro-Control Systems and released CADKEY, the first 3D PC CAP product. 3D was still very hard to work with on a PC and it was not until a later release that CADKEY was able to become a serious player as a 3D wireframe layout tool and for drafting. That same year Diehl Graphsoft, Inc. was founded and the first version of MiniCAD was shipped. MiniCAD became the best selling CAD program on the Macintosh.

Some other relevant CAD items:

  •  In 1978 the Computer Graphics Newsletter, a two year old publication founded by Joel Orr, became Computer Graphics World magazine.
  • In 1979 Boeing, General Electric and NIST developed a neutral file format as a contract from Air Space called IGES (Initial Graphic Exchange Standard). It became the industry standard format and the most widely accepted format for transferring complex surface information, such as NURBS curves (see Chapter 7 for more information.)
  • CoCreate Software Inc., was established in 1984 as a division of Hewlett-Packard Company with the charter to expand the scope and focus for development of computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software products. In 1996, CoCreate became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hewlett-Packard Co. and expanded its product offerings to include collaboration software solutions
  • In 1988 Martin Newell (formerly of the University of Utah) founded Ashlar Incorporation and released Ashlar Vellum CAD software.


  1. The image at the header is a Corvette Racing Next-Generation C6.R. This CAD (computer-aided design) illustration shows the overall layout of the GT2 Corvette C6.R's components, with a GM small-block V8 engine mounted behind the centerline of the front wheels and a 6-speed sequential-shift transaxle between the rear wheels (Richard Prince/GM Racing Photo).