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Computer Aided Drawing: CAD a Digital Tool for Illustrating, Drafting and Design

CAD is a software program that saves artists and designers from the need to draw all of their illustrations by hand. Before the invention of CAD, designers and inventive professionals had to draw their designs in pen and ink or pencil. This was not only laborious but also meant that if mistakes were made they would need to either erase patches of work or start from scratch and redesign the entire product.

Because the computer could be more precise and mathematical, images were not only cleaner and more accurate, but designers themselves were released from time consuming applications so that they could be more productive.

How CAD Was Developed

Ivan Sutherland created a program called Sketchpad. The program proved that repetitive drawing tasks could be automated with computers. Sketchpad was reliable and accurate.

Designers quickly realised that they did not need to laboriously need to draw shapes again and again as the morphed their designs. They found they could simply cut and paste using the same shape repeatedly. For example a cog could be created by repeating the same basic shape over and over around a circle.

The potential for this equipment immediately became apparent, however computers were still expensive. This meant that only big corporations could afford to run the program. Ron Miller in the book Digital Art Painting with Pixels says that the first commercially available CAD program, Digigraphics could only be run by a computer produced by the software’s creator. It cost a half a million dollars.

Versatile CAD Becomes Popular

By the end of the ’60s Miller says, many software suppliers began offering CAD programs. Wide availability and stiff competition drove down prices. As companies competed, programs were offered with more and more features. Three dimensional modeling also became available. This meant that clients were able to examine objects, such a freshly designed machine parts, from all angles before approving designs.

CAD and Computer Systems

By the end of the ’70s, low-cost mini personal computers became available and affordable. Software companies were now free to design programs able to be used by a wide variety of people. In 1982 Autodesk demonstrated the first CAD software for PC. This was called Auto CAD ®101. On page 35, of Digital Art, Miller further describes the way use of the program was taken up by amateur enthusiasts, as well as highly professional designers such as aeronautical engineers and the like.

Productivity and CAD

There may be down sides to the invention of programs such as CAD, they may be that with its promulgation designers began to lose their jobs. One CAD operator could easily replace four or five designers and drafters, says Miller. Also many engineers began to do their own drafting, further eliminating traditional drafting departments.

Miller also goes on to say, that the way we evaluate the drawing process itself may have changed. He says that evaluators value judgments had a tendancy to become more about proficiency with the use of computing and less about the talents required for drafting. He asks the question is some of the finished work , which might be carefully prepared otherwise mediocre? He also goes on to discuss whether this why some architects still prefer to render their drawing by hand rather than afford themselves of the power of computer assisted drawing styles? [p35]