Friday, February 6, 2009

Old Features. Old Days. Old Times

I was talking with a good friend today about the "old days" of CAD.  Mainframes and workstations, that is.  Yall come back now, ya hear?  (banjo twang goes here...)

In the late 1980's, ComputerVision, then a division of Prime computer company, later to be eaten alive by DEC and spit out in pieces, had a product called CADDS 4X.  Before 5X was shipped, more than half of the developer team had split for greener pastures, like Intergraph, PTC, Autodesk, and Dassault, to name a few.

But CADDS 4X had a feature called change line font interval.  The Noun/Verb/Modifier syntax of CADDS 4X was heavily influenced by UNIX shell syntax, so it was easy and intuitive to figure out if you didn't already know a given chain of commands for a needed task.  So one of my favorites was "CHAnge LINetype FONt INTerval" or "CHA LIN FON INT".  Essentially, it made it possible to pick points along a line entity between which you could modify the display properties of the segment bound by the two picked points.  The line entity remained a single entity.  Only the display properties were segmented.  This may seem trivial.  Very trivial.  However, it has ENORMOUS significance to CAD design and CAE processes because you didn't have to resort to breaking entities into multiple parts in order to affect visual property changes.

Newer PC-based CAD products STILL do not support this feature unless you resort to 3D design and executing 2D 'drops' to generate drafting views to mimick the results.  By this, I mean producing hidden line display for depicting one entity "behind" another (with respect to the point of view).  But this is very limited and (pardon the pun) constraining, in many respects.    Some of the interesting features of the CADDS 4X feature were being able to change the color, line weight (thickness), as well as dash/dot font display, for chosen segments.  You could perform this as many times on a given line as you could fit along the overall segment.  Multi-segment line entities opened this up to even more possibilities obviously.    One major benefit of this was in the realm of counting entities.  When you could retain the integrity of the actual entities, it made counting them much easier and more accurate.

It's just amazing that such a simple feature was available (among others) more than twenty years ago, and are still absent from "modern" products.  Don't get me wrong.  I still prefer products like AutoCAD and Inventor over Pro/E and the others.  Relative low cost, customizable features, and reasonable hardware requirements, make it a no-brainer.  But I just finished a tasty beer and had to dump some brain cells before they got away.
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