Unusual Conjunction

I have realized lately that there was a kind of unusual and I think singular conjunction going on in Seattle in the late 80s. Naval architecture had just started to go digital. It was new and expensive. Macsurf had just come out and I seem to recall it was $6K a seat. Autocad was $3K a seat. A giant HP pen plotter was $10K.   What did a Mac cost?  Going from memory here.
Suddenly, here in Seattle there was an explosion of innovation. I always thought that was going on everywhere else, but now I’m not so sure.

Microsoft helped make the PC a less costly alternative to Mac.  Dave Vacanti here wrote Prolines hull design software for PC that did Macsurf at 10% the cost.  Generic Cadd, also here,  for PC was one step behind Autocad, also at 10% of the cost.  Zericon did a pen plotter for $2.5K.  The guy at plotter accelerator wrote a batchfile that made the Zericon plot in one smooth sweep instead of in the order drawn.  Generic also output a flavor of EPS file that Adobe (also down the street) could read easily and with even now, unmatched resolution.  So we could all start doing high quality publishing.  And all these people knew each other.  Dave wrote output specifically for Generic and so on.  By ’86 or ’87 I was doing everything in CADD, with files downstreaming from Prolines to Generic.  I recall being at a design conference in Southampton in maybe ’88 or ’89.  I presented slides of this process and the designs.  John Shuttleworth, the then famous as the most digital catamaran designer in the world, told me, “How you do that is great.  We can’t do that.”

The only other person I recall seeing do CADD back then was Gino.  I was watching him playing with it back at R&D Boatworks.  Cam Lewis was there also.  His comment was, “Its like an etch a sketch”

8 thoughts on “Unusual Conjunction”

  1. Amazing how the Columbia River Dam destroyed the high tech industry in the whole country and world. First it was Boeing and aluminum with all the other airplanes manufacturers being reduced to almost zero. The computers and software followed. Lucky the supply lines are not that great and put a damper on manufacturing growth.
    As a matter of rule computers are great if you keep proficiency with other non electronic calculations and general perspective. Thermal variations, fluctuations, algorithms start to build errors that only someone with a general perspective can manage.
    Glad you mentioned John Shuttleworth. I like his analysis for the Atlantic multihulls.

  2. p.s. I emailed over 600MB of vids/pics last night, via Filemail (up to 30GB free for personal stuff).

    1. am very thankful. 600 mg? I have to squeeze them down to about 100 kb each to fit on the page here. I’ll say it slowly. 600 mg of pictures. I can’t wait to see the lot.

    2. Chris, could you just email a few jpegs or gifs? I tried the download and it insisted I install their custom video viewwer. My virus software freaked out many times as I tried it. I finally tried to email you by replying to yours. It bounced as undeliverable with “550 Unrouteable address This has been a permanent failure. No further delivery attempts will be made”

  3. Ha. Yes, I remember you describing your design tool suite when I was there in Seattle in the late ’80s – loving my weekends by helping you build the F40 – and when you went to Southampton, but I guess I, like you, imagined that the other designers had similar or even hotter tech stuff, albeit way more expensive.
    You’re right, the neat thing was that they knew each other, but the unfortunate thing, it seems, is that they somehow did not recognize, or more importantly, market the amazing package they had… yes?

    1. Yes you were there for all of it. Including Southampton design conferences a couple of times. Each item faded in a different way. Vacanti kept his day job so Prolines became a hobby. Generic was bought and dismembered by Autocad. Inkjets took over, and even HP fell behind. My Canon plotter is much better. Adobe and Microsoft, we already know.

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