Sunday, December 16, 2012

Who is Ralph Grabowski? And Why CAD Pro's Should Read His Stuff

Ralph Grabowski has been writing about the world of engineering-related and design-related software for quite a long time.  And that world has continued to grow and evolve without slowing down.

When I started working in the "design" field, it was 1984.  The predominant technology of the time was a wooden board covered with a plastic-film graph paper, a cable-mounted "drafting machine", and a stack of stencils and templates.  The medium was one of the following:  Tracing paper, Sepia, or Mylar.  The instrumentation was usually a mechanical pencil with either an H-series graphite lead, or (more often) plastic "lead" of either E0, or E1 grade.

In 1985 that relatively arcane world started to fade away at a steady pace, and a new breed of computers and software began taking its place.  First were the mainframe systems, like Autotrol and CADAM.  Then came a few more, like Computervision, UniGraphics, Pro/Engineer, and Intergraph.  Then wallets started to evaporate.  The cost for mainframe, and later the more compact "workstation" packages, was astronomical. As in: you'd need an observatory telescope to see the end of the price tag.  It was scary.

Renegade companies, with dreams of producing cheaper alternatives on the newer (and more affordable) MS-DOS PC-platform, started springing up, with names like GenericCAD, DesignCAD, Autodesk, FastCAD, Drafix, This-CAD and That-CAD, and too many others to recall now.  Some survived for a while, some died out, and a few remained and exist to this day.  And through a big portion of this timeline, most of it actually, there have been a few journalists who've tried to get a handle on just what this "CAD/CAM" and "CAD/CAM/CAE" stuff was all about, and more importantly: Where it was all going.

One of them has been, and still is, Ralph Grabowski.  His newsletter, upFront.eZine, has been cranking out in-depth reviews, interviews, news, and events for as long as I can remember.  A mix of web-content and e-mailed content, it is an enormously valuable resource for engineers, designers, managers, software developers, start-up visionaries, and anyone just plain curious about this unique segment of the technology world.

Although my personal and professional involvement with the design world somewhat ended a few years back, I'm still tied to parts of it by way of my role as an IT consultant.  I still package and deploy CAD products for various environments, and I still get called in to consult and work with FlexLM and FlexNet implementations.  For that reason alone, I still read the upFront.eZine newsletter to stay current with what's going on.

For continuing to push forward and keep us all clued-in:  Thank you Ralph!


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