Autodesk's headquarters are in San Rafael, CA, about 20 miles north of the Golden Gate bridge. San Rafael (pronounced san raFELL, not san RAFFYel) is in beautiful Marin County (pronounced maRIN not MARin). Its easy to fall in love with the place.
During my first visit 15 years ago, I looked out from the Autodesk lobby to see deer grazing on the foggy hillside. There may be a housing development there now but for the most part Marin exists as a wonderfully bucolic area. A small amount of development is permitted, mostly along the US101 corridor that connects San Francisco to Sonoma County, but go a mile west and you'll get beautiful rolling hills, redwood valleys, pastures and forests, all the way to the Pacific Ocean, with scarcely a hint of people.
Marin County: find the AutoCAD users in this picture
Autodesk founders loved Marin County, I'm sure. But along with a scarcity of people in Marin (only about 250,000) comes a scarcity of industry. You won't find smokestack industries in Marin. And with development suppressed, very little new building. The few users that are here did band together to create a user group.
The Marin AutoCAD User Group had existed since I can remember, but may have been on life support from Autodesk. But as I read from Elise Moss' newsletter, that even noble efforts -- such as providing class-A office space for meetings, free food refreshments -- were insufficient. Attendance had dwindled to a handful of regulars.
It makes me wonder of the fate of local user groups. Not far from here, SVAPU [Silicon Valley AutoCAD Power Users], which claimed to be the biggest AutoCAD user group in the world, packed arenas monthly, drawing on (CAD) celebrities, fabulous (CAD) prizes, etc. But that was years ago. There were still print magazines then.
The Chicago area also used to fill the room, as did PAUG [Philadelphia area User Group].
But nowadays, are people mostly happy with googling the answer to their CAD questions? Finding 'friends' on online forums? Is giving up an evening, listening to guys talking about how they remember when AutoCAD used to fit on a floppy disk, worth a slice of pizza?
One of the many problems with public transportation is that it gets in the way of private vehicles, the ones whose taxes pay for the roads and subsidize the buses, street cars, and trams. They inhibit efficient travel by our cars, because they (a) block the curb lane at stops; (b) are slow to accelerate from stops, and (c) take up the equivalent of 2-4 car lengths, thereby decreasing throughput volume per lane.
(When bus drivers go on strike in Vancouver, car drivers celebrate, for the commute becomes much smoother.)
Some cities "solve" the problem by creating exclusive transit lanes. This approach solves problems (a) and (b); it worsens problem (c), because one lane is taken away, increasing congestion for private vehicles.
The other solution is to separate public transportation entirely, but subways and SkyTrains (elevated trains, as in Vancouver) are horrendously expensive. The spending of tax dollars has gotten so severe that bureaucrats are now specifying flying car pool lanes, where a car pool lane bridges over other traffic lanes.
As a former transportation engineer, I was fascinated to read a report from China Hush (er, should that be China Revealed?) of the rather clever idea for getting buses to straddle car lanes. The buses are wide (wide enough for two lanes) and tall (high enough for trucks to pass underneath).
The idea solves problems (a), (b), and (c), and costs much less than a SkyTrain. The article Straddling Buses discusses many of the pros, cons, and costs. What isn't clear is how it handles curves, since the scale model appears rigid; or what occurs at intersections when the S-Bus needs to make a turn.
As a transportation engineer in the 1980s, I used mainframe computers to model traffic volume predictions, and was embarrassed at the poor outcome. Predicted traffic jams failed to materialize, because human behavior cannot be modeled well. We learn to route around problems with our cars.
Some 30 years later, computer modeling continues to be used today for unpredictable events, such as the paths for hurricanes. I was struck by the divergent results of 15 computer models predicting paths for Hurricane Bonnie over the next five days.
One path shows the hurricane (or its aftermath) ending up in Toronto, while another just as badly predicts Victoria, Canada. And to think there are those who trust the outcome from computer modeling of climate change predicted for 50 years from now.
This YouTube video shows a felt tip pen plotter made from Lego. "Horseattack" wired the electronics to control the motions, and wrote the Mac OS X printer driver.
Although a pen is used, this is not a vector plotter. The action is like that of a raster printer, where the print head goes back and forth as the paper slowly moves through. The pen is raised and lowered to create gaps and to draw.
While reading a friend´s doctoral thesis about CAAD history, I discovered that most of his research was done using Internet and only Internet. In this way, only a part of the story is written, that of North-American origin, as we Europeans don't share this enthusiasm about publishing every bit of significant history. Information about European created software was completely missing. With the help of the architect and web designer Alfredo Calosci, I uploaded a large set of commercial documents...
It was about a year ago, during the first Open Design Alliance conference (in Holland), that ODA president Arnold van der Wieide presented upFront.eZine a commemorative plaque celebrating its 600th issue. I'm not sure why, but I forgot to show it off to everyone.
So now that it is a year later, and upFront.eZine is up to 641 issues, here it is: the plaque is a Dutch-style ceramic tile, 6x6" (14x14cm).
Coming up on May 1, upFront.eZine turns 15 years old, and continues to be the longest-running e-publication in the CAD world. Its archives have proven useful to people needing to research the history of CAD, at least for those events that occurred since 1995.