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Aug 20, 2007




Nitpicking but some of your nits were not correct. :-)

The first AutoCAD 86 code was not the code from another product! AutoCAD 86 was written in C language but Autodesk did have a very limited assembly language based product they purchased from Mike.

AutoCAD was the very first native 86 (C based) CAD application for the PC back in 1982/83

There were no plans that I was aware of to make an office suite the product AutoDesk was a data management software not word processing.

I plan on posting a ton of old historical images, videos, interviews, and quotes over the next few months in my blog and have already posted some bits and pieces.


Evan Yares

From John Waker's Autodesk File website:

"MicroCAD: The new name for Mike Riddle's computer graphics package."

"The product is a computer-aided design and drafting system. This product currently exists on the Marinchip 9900 computer in SPL. Our plan is to convert it to the IBM Personal Computer either by translating it to C or Digital Research PL/1, or by porting SPL to the 8086...

"Installed on a desktop computer configuration in the $10K to $15K range, it is competitive in performance and features to Computervision CAD systems in the $70K range. There are no known competitive products on microcomputers today (although there are some very simpleminded screen drawing programs for the Apple, and we must be careful to explain how we differ)."


I forgot to mention $1000 is a little picky but if $1000 is the retail then you know it was sold less than that on the street.

When AutoCAD was first sold it was at AutoCAD 1.2 ala AutoCAD 86 and there was no version 1.3 Dimension extension available until John came up with it later. People actually used it and some disciplines don't even use dimensions today. ;-)


> "...if $1000 is the retail
> then you know it was sold
> less than that on the street."

Based on what evidence?

In the beginnings of AutoCAD, it was sold for $1000+tax -- no discounts. You could become a dealer just by buying two copies -- also no discount.

AutoCAD dealers made their profits through sales of hardware (typical desktop price was around $6000), because there were huge margins on the computers. Back then, dealers saw AutoCAD as a way to sell hardware (such as expensive 10MB hard drives and high-resolution 800x600x256 graphics boards, and 20" monitors that cost $10,000).

The alternative was spending $50,000 - $150,000 on a turnkey CAD system from Intergraph or Computervision. When the competition costs $50K, you're not going to quibble over a $49 discount on a $1000 alternative.


I have spoken with many longtime resellers and customers from back in the 1982/83 time frame. You could get it less than $1000 for example not getting the manual was $25 less bring the price to $975 less than $1000. :-)

It is nice Evan quoted the Walker file as some response but understand he quoted just observations not what took place so the comment that no assembly code written by Mike was in the original released AutoCAD 86 product as that was by John and Greg using the first collaboration model of the U.S. Mail shipping of diskettes back and forth across the San Francisco Bay. Mike's product was made for the old MarinChip which was by John Walker. I actually posted images of this historical relic. I also have both the two published versions of the Autodesk File printed books as well as have spoken on many occasions with the founders. I can give anyone a look at the old products running at AU 2007 as I am planning on having them there along with more historical info and examples maybe even my NURBS Chocalate Bar. :-)



Evan Yares

I first saw AutoCAD at Comdex, in '82, and became a dealer in '83, when version 1.3 came out. So, I have some personal experience with street price.

I suppose if you divided total sales dollars by seats used, the street price for AutoCAD was in the $200 range. There was a lot of piracy from day one.

If you exclude the effects of piracy, the street price was probably pretty close to retail until Autodesk started making OEM deals with computer manufacturers. These companies would often dump the copies of AutoCAD they bought.

I remember one case, where Autodesk did a big deal with a graphics board manufacturer. It was cheaper for resellers to buy AutoCADs from that company than from Autodesk. And they didn't care who they sold them to -- so it made mess of things until their inventory was depleted.

All this ancient history doesn't really matter, I suppose. Yet, what surprises me is that here we are, in 2007, and AutoCAD still suffers from many of the design flaws that it had when it was first introduced 25 years ago.

Rob N.

>There were no plans that I was aware of to
>make an office suite the product AutoDesk
>was a data management software not word


I am a big fan but a couple things, "an office suite", is not necessarily a "word processor", this is a common misconception (aka MS Word, which is in MS Office).

As well you should check John Waker's Autodesk File, they did have some big plans for Autodesk (the software). It is well documented AutoCAD was NOT the 'soul goal' (which was the original point), they had 9 products on the go at the beginning. And if you want to get technical Autodesk was not "data management software" either, it was "an office automation system for small computers". But then we are both just splitting hairs at this point .

Rob N.

From John Waker's Autodesk File website:

"Autodesk is an office automation system for small computers. It embodies a computer model of an office environment. It provides file cards, file boxes, a calendar, etc."

...as well...

"This package has an almost unlimited potential for add-on products for installed customers. Electronic mail, fancier filing, report writer modules, data entry systems, etc., can all be sold as add-ons to the basic system."

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