Technical Drawing/Drafting

Created by cmalco on 12 March, 2018

As I have worked as an engineering technician for over forty years, my career has spanned the transition from working on a drawing board with pencils, pens and a few templates, through early 2D CAD to the current approach 3D model based design and drafting. I print my business cards on an old Roland DXY 1200 pen plotter, part of my collection old technology. I have an old CAD program Generic CADD 6.0 on an old machine with all the right bits to talk to the plotter. I had to change the mobile phone number on my card so I have had it all running today.

Generic CAD was an early competitor to AutoCAD a lot cheaper and compared to ACAD of the same time, my preference. it was due to price, the company I was working at, then purchased this product. The work I was doing mainly for this company, then, was balancing and commissioning heating and ventilating plant, mainly in new buildings. The final part of each project was updating all the drawings to "As Built" so that all the drawings were as the project ended up at the end. When I started the main contractor would provide tracing sheets that I would update, scraping off the old ink and replacing them with how it all ended up. One time instead of tracings some floppy disks turned up instead and we had to join the modern world. As I had worked for several years in a Government department, I was familiar with using a PC. I had been trained in 1984 to use the IBM first generation machine, Lotus 123 and DBase 3, tools we used to program work, mainly casings going through a foundry. The company owner had quite a shock when he was given a quote for ACAD software, especially as this was several times more than the reasonably good, for the time PC to run it on. As Generic CADD 6.0 could open ACAD dwgs and was way cheaper, this was the option he went for.

I got to like this program, it would run well enough on just about any hardware and I liked it better than ACAD. In the end to keep current and have full capability with the standard CAD system around town at the time, eventually ACAD 12 was taken up. Moving into CAD changed this business completely. Once we went down the CAD path, I spent little time with the heating and ventilation work. Contracting CAD services became our main business. This was helped by Autodesk who had brought out the company that made Generic CAD, dropped it from their products, but replaced it with ACAD LT at about the same price and fully compatible with ACAD 12 dwgs. With ACAD LT being at a more suitable cost, the company soon had a few more CAD stations. When a customer had too much work and not enough time, we would load up a PC into a car, off to the customers workplace and tear into it. Customers liked our technician being at their workplace as it gave them the control of the project. One big advantage I found myself during this part of my career was by working with a selection of the best CAD operators I was always able to learn a new trick in each place, way more and way quicker than I would have working at only one place. The first contract I worked on was long hours over a weekend, drawings had to be ready Monday morning, I had just completed a basic three week ACAD course and learned way more that weekend with skilled men than I had for the three week course.

Because of the time period my career has been over I have worked on the drawing board, 2D CAD, when a 286 machine was top of the pile, when drawings were plotted on a pen plotter, to the wonderful world of complex 3D modeling along with the CAD-manufacture integrated world of today. The big jobs in the days of the drawing board are much quicker now with the 3D model approach of today.

This is a video of my Roland pen plotter plotting out my card. I also have an old HP AO Draftsmaster 1 in my collection. Sometimes on a complex AO drawing taking an hour or more to make a plot was not uncommon. DOS not being multi-tasking you could not use the PC for anything else at the time. Are there many others out there who went from manual drafting to the full blown CAD of today.

Along the way there were many who did not make the effort to keep up with changing technology and dropped out of this industry. I have trained some to make this transition and have always found it easier to turn a good engineer into a CAD/Computer technician than to make a computer whiz into a useful engineer, though not impossible if they want to become a good engineer.