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The 1993 Hand to Computer-Aided Drafting

“I was in the middle of this transition. I hand drafted for approximately 26 years and converted to computer-aided drafting for another 16 years. I took my first CAD class in the evenings of 1993, I believe. It was not AutoCAD software, but some funky program which used a digitizer tablet and it crashed at least once each class.” – Merrill K. Gordon

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“When I started in March of 2014 all of architecture was interesting to me. But, going into the basement to the drawing storage and seeing those seemingly ancient and yellowed hand drawings was jaw-dropping. The detail and precision of a spiral staircase, or a kitchen cabinet elevation was and still is incredible.” – MacKenzie Witzke

 Winfield Home designed by William Caton

Winfield Home designed by William Caton

Of course, the industry, as a whole, no longer drafts by hand and this firm stopped that practice back in 1993, as Merrill describes above. Talking to people who were in the thick of business through that change is interesting, however.

Imagine, you are in the full-swing of business and you have to stop to go to school again to learn the basics of new technology, basics that if you don’t learn – your business won’t last. As it is, it is hard to find time to get away from the office for that time management seminar, let alone for series of lessons that are going to change the way you do business. In addition to this, the initial attempts at computer generated drafting were very cumbersome and actually made the drafting process slower.

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Few people enjoy change, so of course through the transition there were aspects of hand drafting that those trained in it preferred. For example, while initially trying to learn the computer programs and equipment, hand drawing was faster. Since time is the only thing architects could sell, this was not profitable. Another advantage, often a visual one, is the amount of detail that would go into hand drafted homes or facilities.  Also, because technology was not what it is today, computers, in general, were cumbersome and very expensive.

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Advantages of computer generated drafting now seem obvious, but when considering the perspective of someone who hadn’t grown up with computers, cell phones and much of the technology we have today, these advantages were a little harder to see and wait for. We are going to list these as there are so many:

·         Changes became quicker

·         Duplicating/copying became faster and easier

·         Over time, computer generated drafting was faster

·         With repetitive elements such as a motel having multiple rooms with the same layout, the computer is faster

·         With a computer you can also have libraries of pre-drawn building elements that can be brought in rather than drawn from scratch every time

·         Coordination with engineers, and communication with clients is easier

·         Paper costs are down, although still expensive. Hand drafting paper came in many different and expensive forms.

·         From architect to architect working on a project, the drafting style can be more consistent

·         Variety of offer-able services: Virtual Reality, renderings, drafting

·         And many more!

So, out with the old and in with the new. Everyone in the firm is very thankful for technology and its provided abilities. It is unlikely that we will ever frame and display a standard 2D plan produced on a computer, but hand drafted plans will serve as wall art for years to come.

Written by MacKenzie B. Witzke - Business Manager at Agora Architecture