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The Software That Changed Architecture: Reflecting on 40 Years of AutoCAD

by | Aug 17, 2022 | AutoCAD, Autodesk

When you think of the 1980s, what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s Madonna or Prince, Cheers or Dynasty, leg warmers or acid washed denim. Those days may feel far removed from the cutting-edge, high-tech world of the 2020s, but that distant decade actually laid the foundations for much of our lives today — particularly when it comes to our working world. It’s remarkable to think that Microsoft Word was launched in 1983, while Photoshop was first developed in 1987 before its first official release in 1990.

For architects though, arguably the most important piece of software was first created way back in 1982: AutoCAD, a new type of 2D drafting application, was launched as a desktop app running on microcomputers with internal graphics controllers. Ever since, its distinctive black screen and colored polylines have graced the screens of millions, leading the transition from manual drawing to computer-aided design for creative industries worldwide.

A man using AutoCAD 2.6 to digitize a drawing of a school building in 1987; image via Wikipedia

While this iconic piece of software has been utilized worldwide ever since then by graphic designers, engineers, project managers and more, it’s perhaps most associated with architecture, transforming the design process of countless firms over the past four decades. While its place in the history books of architectural practice has long been secure, the software’s continues to be hugely popular, despite the emergence of 3D BIM software in recent years.

Architizer’s Editor in Chief Paul Keskeys sat down with Dania El Hassan, AutoCAD’s Director of Product Management, to learn how AutoCAD has managed to retain its relevance in an ever-changing industry, and hear about the upcoming evolutions planned for this enduring software.