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A Brief History of AutoCAD

AutoCAD Brief History

AutoCAD is a software application developed by Autodesk that enables computer-aided design (CAD) and drafting. The software is used to produce 2D and 3D drawings. AutoCAD software allows users to conceptualize ideas, produce designs and drawings to the required levels of technical accuracy, and even perform rapid design calculations and simulations; across a wide range of industries.

The First CAD Software for PCs

AutoCAD has been available on the market since 1982, making it the first CAD system developed for PCs. This means that AutoCAD has been around longer than Adobe Photoshop or even Microsoft Windows! Before AutoCAD, commercial CAD programs in the 70s ran on mainframe computers or minicomputers, with each user working at a separate graphics terminal. If the designer didn’t have access to these, they’d go about drawing using an old-school drafting desk and a t-square. Creating new versions of drawings and performing calculations took days, even weeks. Imagine how much effort it would take to compute technical calculations with calculators and mathematical tables! What’s worse, the process was fraught with opportunities for error.

The Origins of AutoCAD

The company behind AutoCAD, Autodesk was founded in 1982 by John Walker. He and the other 15 co-founders intended to develop five different desktop automation applications, hoping that one of the applications would take off. Their flagship product turned out to be AutoCAD. They launched AutoCAD at the COMDEX trade show in Las Vegas as the first CAD program in the world to run on a PC. By March 1986, only four years after it was introduced, AutoCAD had become the most widely used design application worldwide, a position it still holds today.

In its 35 years, AutoCAD has grown substantially. In fact, there has been 31 versions since the first release in December 1982! Over the years, Autodesk added new features and programs to appeal to different professions. The software supports APIs for customization and automation, which enabled the creation of vertical products such as AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD Electrical and AutoCAD Civil 3D. In the last five years, Autodesk has also created mobile and cloud-based apps, including AutoCAD 360, Fusion 360, and A360 Viewer. These programs couple design and documentation tools together with the ability to share and collaborate via the Internet.

Detailed AutoCAD Release History
Official Name Version Date of release Comments
AutoCAD Version 1.0 1 1982, December DWG R1.0 file format
AutoCAD Version 1.2 1.2 1983, April DWG R1.2 file format
AutoCAD Version 1.3 1.3 1983, August DWG R1.3 file format
AutoCAD Version 1.4 1.4 1983, October DWG R1.4 file format
AutoCAD Version 2.0 2 1984, October DWG R2.05 file format
AutoCAD Version 2.1 2.1 1985, May DWG R2.1 file format
AutoCAD Version 2.5 2.5 1986, June DWG R2.5 file format
AutoCAD Version 2.6 2.6 1987, April DWG R2.6 file format
AutoCAD Release 9 9 1987, September DWG R9 file format
AutoCAD Release 10 10 1988, October DWG R10 file format
AutoCAD Release 11 11 1990, October DWG R11 file format
AutoCAD Release 12 12 1992, June DWG R11/R12 file format. Last release forApple Macintoshtill 2010.
AutoCAD Release 13 13 1994, November DWG R13 file format. Last release forUnix,MS-DOSandWindows 3.11.
AutoCAD Release 14 14 1997, February DWG R14 file format
AutoCAD 2000 15 1999, March DWG 2000 file format
AutoCAD 2000i 15.1 2000, July  
AutoCAD 2002 15.2 2001, June  
AutoCAD 2004 16 2003, March DWG 2004 file format
AutoCAD 2005 16.1 2004, March  
AutoCAD 2006 16.2 2005, March Dynamic Block
AutoCAD 2007 17 2006, March DWG 2007 file format
AutoCAD 2008 17.1 2007, March Annotative Objects introduced. AutoCAD 2008 and higher can directly import and underlayDGNV8 files.
AutoCAD 2009 17.2 2008, March Revisions to the user interface
AutoCAD 2010 18 2009, March 24 DWG 2010 file format. Parametrics, Mesh 3D solid modeling and PDF underlays introduced.
AutoCAD 2011 18.1 2010, March 25 Surface Modeling, Surface Analysis and Object Transparency introduced.
AutoCAD 2012 18.2 2011, March 22 Associative Array, Model Documentation, DGN editing. Support for complex line types in DGN files is improved
AutoCAD 2013 19 2012, March 27 DWG 2013 file format
AutoCAD 2014 19.1 2013, March 26 File Tabs, Design Feed, Reality Capture, Autodesk Live Maps
AutoCAD 2015 20 2014, March 27 Line smoothing (anti-aliasing)
AutoCAD 2016 20.1 2015, March 23 More comprehensive canvas, richer design context, and intelligent new tools such as Smart Dimensioning, Coordination Model, and Enhanced PDFs
AutoCAD 2017 21 2016, March 21 PDF import, Associative Center Marks and Centerlines, DirectX 11 graphics

For full details of each release, head over to Autodesk’s blog archive on AutoCAD release history

A Flashback Into The Past

AutoCAD’s Applications

AutoCAD was initially created for mechanical engineers, but very quickly extended to encompass a range of fields. In fact, AutoCAD’s success is largely due to its mass adoption by a wide range of design professionals, including architects, project managers, animators and engineers.

Construction

The main industry in which AutoCAD is used is construction. Autodesk Building Design Suite provides a 3D building design software portfolio that combines Building Information Modeling (BIM) and CAD tools to help construction engineers design, visualize, simulate and build more efficiently.

One example of how AutoCAD has successfully helped a project is the construction of the Shanghai Tower. The tower is a vastly complicated structure and the developers soon realized that traditional building methods, tools and other design software were incapable of carrying out the project successfully. So, the developers turned to the advanced tools offered by BIM, which allowed the design team to visualize the tower in 3D and to perfectly capture the twisting structure of the tower.

Using BIM also allowed the team to analyze the design for improved decision-making; to monitor the building energy analysis in order to create a more environmentally friendly skyscraper; and helped to save building materials. The tower’s owner and developer credits BIM and AutoCAD for the building’s successful construction. “From a property owner’s perspective, BIM provides an excellent tool for the design, construction, management and investment control of the entire project.”

Animation

It is not just in the construction sector where AutoCAD has seen regular use: the Entertainment Creation suites can produce high quality entertainment content by using 3D animation software. With an array of specialized creative toolsets integrated to form a modern, flexible graphic pipeline, the suites allows animators, visual effects artists and modelers to push the boundaries of their creative abilities, increase their productivity and meet tight deadlines.

See some of the work by AutoCAD customers in 3D design, engineering and entertainment.


Here are some suggestions for further reading:


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18 Responses to A Brief History of AutoCAD

  1. satyajeet nanda Oct 28, 2014 at 12:02 PM #

    Autocad is a wonderful software. I am using it last 4 and half years. I am a cad can instructor in an engineering institute .for mechanical civil and electrical also. I have created so many drawings and projects by AutoCAD.and I can also send it if u need.

  2. rabindra thapa Mar 21, 2017 at 7:10 AM #

    thanks

    • Luke Kennedy Mar 21, 2017 at 9:44 AM #

      Thanks for the short and sweet message 🙂 You’re welcome.

  3. John McDonnell Jul 18, 2017 at 6:06 PM #

    You may want to check the date on that “1982” photo. I worked with Autodesk in the 1980’s, and it’s first real demos usually appeared on monochrome monitors. In fact, the “killer” demo was to show the operation of the program on the standard 8088 PC (as the page slowly displayed with the cursor running left to right and then moving to next line–for about 45 seconds!) and then demo with the Intel math co-processor, which cut it to less than 5 seconds. I remember those demos on an old amber monochrome monitor.

    • Luke Kennedy Jul 18, 2017 at 7:09 PM #

      Hey John,

      Thanks for the message. Wow! Sounds like it was a super exciting time!

      I will check to see if the photo is dated correctly.

    • Ashley Tyler Jan 25, 2021 at 10:11 PM #

      Thank you John! Love that your memory pockets are deep and sharp. We need more peeps like you to help weave the fabric of the story behind the genesis of software like this. Important to remember how far we’ve come in such a short time.

  4. Jeremiah Gaye Mar 18, 2018 at 2:38 PM #

    i want to know more about AutoCAD

  5. erica brent Apr 5, 2018 at 4:13 PM #

    really you can learn how to use auto cad in 1 hour?

    • Luke Kennedy Apr 5, 2018 at 4:18 PM #

      Hey Erica, if you’re new to AutoCAD, work through this AutoCAD Tutorial post and let us know how you get on after an hour!

  6. satendra Apr 20, 2018 at 6:25 AM #

    auto cad is good software to help it we draw the difficult drawing easily way its is very useful software of engineering flied. they are mechanical, electrical civil plastic engineering etc
    his command is very easy operated by any human being .

  7. satendra Apr 20, 2018 at 6:28 AM #

    thanks bottom of heart john walker sir’

  8. Donald Perry Jul 5, 2018 at 7:59 PM #

    I see why its in high demand

  9. Sophia Harris Nov 12, 2018 at 1:16 AM #

    Good evening.

    I need some assistance in downloading AutoCad on my MacBook Pro.

    • luke Nov 12, 2018 at 4:34 PM #

      I’d recommend contacting AutoCAD support

  10. Bhagyajyoti M Patil Aug 5, 2019 at 4:12 PM #

    I genuinely wanna thankfull to Auto cad founder ..Being a civil engineer it helps me a lot in all my works actually it gives life for women civil engineers for making possible things do work from home and at office ..

  11. gaber raafat May 5, 2020 at 8:39 PM #

    good evening .
    i m an undergratuated student and i m making a research about ” Development stages of using AutoCAD on preparing engineering drawings ” how can i get resources ?

    • Andoni May 6, 2020 at 10:21 AM #

      Hi, Gaber! I’d recommend posting your question to the community at CAD Answers: https://cadanswers.com/

      Maybe someone will be able to help there.

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