Drafting technology

From Instapundit, video of a factory. It looks like the late 50s or early 60s. Around 30 seconds in there’s a man using a drafting machine. After learning mechanical drawing with T-square and triangles, I took a summer job where I got to use one of these, and I thought it was fantastic – amazingly faster and better than the old way. Until the late 90s I used drafting machines occasionally, and then took a job using Autocad. After drawing with pencils and pens and using things like this polar planimeter, using a real CAD package was amazingly faster and better than the old way. What’s next – a holodeck? Whatever it is, no doubt it will be amazingly faster and better than those primitive CAD packages from the turn of the century.


4 Replies to “Drafting technology”

  1. I never got to use a polar planimeter. I did pencil/ink/t-square/etc drafting through high school. Then for the first half of college I did the same plus AutoCAD. Now I use Microstation, which is just another kind of AutoCAD-similar program. Things keep getting faster and more integrated.

    Good in many ways. Bad in that it means engineers can and do change things up until the plans go out the door since they know it doesn’t involve erasing ink on mylar or scratching things out. :) Less cautious forethought is required with more technology.

    1. It seems like design is becoming virtual modeling, with the machine getting built in 3D inside the computer. Something like this happened in computer science class in college. People had to enter the program on punch cards, then go in person to the IO office to pick up their output – disappointing, to say the least, if you made a mistake and your output was junk. So people put a lot of thought into their program and worked carefully. Then the university put in interactive terminals, so you wrote the program and then compiled it immediately. People, of course, started programming by trial and error.

      Interesting that every individual step has become faster and more efficient, yet it takes us years to build anything. The Empire State Building went up in 15 months. What technology gives, the lawyers take away.

  2. I also went from punch cards with a 2- to 8- hour turnaround time to terminals. The big difference to me wasn’t that I put less thought into the program but that I expended less time in detailed inspection of the code for syntax errors. With the new terminals, I could spend ten minutes going over the code in detail, or let the computer do the checks for me in 10 seconds. That’s a huge improvement in productivity.

    You are right that this huge improvement didn’t speed up software development that much, but I think the main reason is that projects just got more ambitious so they took the same time and did more. There are lots more very complex software systems now than there were with punch cards.

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