by Rooponder Tara, Tenlinks.com
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?
(Reprinted with permission from CAD Insider.)