The History of Computer-Aided Design

Various CAD drafting programs are utilized in industries throughout the world. CAD software is being constantly optimized to improve on previous versions and innovate computer-aided design going forward. Developments and optimizations are made regularly in line with each industry’s specialized needs. With the convenience and ease of drafting afforded by CAD services, it is easy to forget its humble beginnings. However, understanding where CAD came from provides us with insight into how it will evolve in the future, and also gives us a healthy dose of respect for this revolutionary software.

Around 1957, engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in America began attempting to develop easier ways to automate engineering design using numerically controlled tools and various other computer-esque machines. Out of this, one particular numerically-controlled programming system was developed by a fellow called Patrick Hanratty, who is credited with creating the groundbreaking SKETCHPAD.

SKETCHPAD was the first commercially available numerically-controlled programming system which demonstrated the basic ability to create almost approximate computer-aided technical drawings. Hanratty, the widely acclaimed “Father of CAD,” developed the Program for Numerical Tooling Operations (PRONTO) which was revered as the first commercial CNC programming system that afforded man the opportunity to work “hand in hand with machine” to create a graphical communication system that was, for the most part, exempt from the same fates other design projects were privy to, due to human error and miscalculations.

On the heels of Hanratty’s invention came a flurry of further CAD developments, and in 1960 the first digitizer was born. This production-based interactive graphics manufacturing system was readily snatched up by engineers, architects, and designers, worldwide, and led to the founding of many companies wishing to commercialize their own fledgling CAD programs.

By the 1970s there had been enough interest and extensive research for software developers to begin moving from 2D drafting to 3D drafting, allowing for more accurate 3D curve and surface modelling, which also enabled the similar accuracy afforded by physically solid models. The plus side? These 3D CAD services enabled more stringent calculations, which aided in project planning and calculating required materials and foreseeing risks.

Once the automotive, aerospace, and other industries began fully utilizing CAD software, programmers dedicated their lives to improving and innovating the software to keep up with the large-scale adoption of CAD.

In 1983, a group of programmers formed Autodesk – the company that released AutoCAD, the revolutionary drafting program still used today. For the ensuing years, CAD was being utilized more and more, and its advanced drafting and engineering functionality was praised, and more readily affordable and available, although it was all still largely 2D focused.

After years of analysis, incorporation of feedback, and improvements in modeling and technology, a CAD program based on solid geometry and feature-based parametric techniques was released, making 3D CAD services commercially available, although still expensive and laborious to run on PCs that were not as powerful as they are today. Since this advancement, technology has grown in exponential waves, leading to the incredibly precise, realistic, and convenient CAD services we have available today.

When you can plan a project from conception to engineering; to manufacturing, sales, and maintenance; and every aspect of the product/project lifecycle in one program, it is easy to forget just how lucky you are. We take our hat off to all those before us that worked so hard to innovate and create this technology that is treasured and integral to most industries to this day.

Be a part of history, and use AutoCAD 2D, Microstation 2D, or Revit 2D Space Management software. Contact us at (800) 700-3305 or email

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