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History of engineering drafting

“People often say ‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’ I believe the original quote was actually ‘A picture is worth ten thousand words’ as stated by Fred R. Barnard, of Printers’ Ink, 10 March 1927.

Examining the history of engineering drafting and design equivocally means looking at the history of man, the history of building things. Drafting and design have been around since the dawn of time. The earliest recorded history of engineering drafting was in 2000 B.C., of which we have a fossilized aerial view plan of a Babylonian castle. Since then, and with the advent of paper, engineering drafting has been fairly analog. For the majority of drafting’s history, it was an art form perfected by skilled designers and essential to a culture’s infrastructure. For quite a long time, engineering meant getting out paper and drawing out plans and designs by hand.

The modern age of engineering drafting was ushered in back in 1963 when a man named Ivan Sutherland invented a little program called Sketchpad. This was the first graphically interfaced CAD program – if you can call it that – to allow users to create x-y plots. By no means were engineers of the day using this program on a daily basis or even at all, but it started what is now a booming computer aided design industry all centered around engineering design.

A significant intellectual and financial investment was made in the 1960’s into CAD programs by engineers at Boeing, Ford, Citroen, MIT, and GM. Likely evident by the companies involved, CAD emerged as a way to simplify automotive and aerospace designs. Due to significant, lack of processing power compared to today’s standards, early CAD design required large financial and engineering capabilities.

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