This history of Catia is written by its founder, Francis Bernard, and is hosted by David Levin at isicad. The software was launched by that name in 1977, but it was preceded by decade of development work, including a CAM interface in the late 1960s. Like other CAD software of the time, it was developed internally by a manufacturing company, in this case French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation.
The sales breakthrough came in 1981 when IBM agreed to distribute the software worldwide. The primary advantage: Catia did 3D design, while all competitors were limited to 2D; and, Catia was sold by IBM, a requirement for large corporations, like Boeing.
In September of that year, Dassault Systemes broke off from Dassault Aviation as an independent company. In 1984, Bernard Charles was hired for the R&D department, and then slowly worked his way up to president eleven years later. Francis Bernard retired in 2006.