Autodesk Fortieth Anniversary Events in 2022

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of several key events in the history of Autodesk, Inc.:

I have linked items in this list to their descriptions in The Autodesk File, my history of Autodesk in documents. The book was originally published in 1989 by New Riders Publishing with copies becoming somewhat of a collectors’ item. In 1994, I prepared a fourth edition for publication on that new-fangled thing called the “World-Wide Web”, adding material on events after 1988 through 1994, doubling the size of the book. In 2017, to commemorate the 35th anniversary of Autodesk’s founding, I released the The Autodesk File, fifth edition on the Web, updated to contemporary Web standards and typography (content is essentially unchanged from the 1994 fourth edition, apart from correction of minor typographic and formatting errors).

Fourmilab hosts a number of Autodesk-related resources in addition to The Autodesk File including:

If you read through the early history of Autodesk, you’ll find many references to Marinchip Systems, the personal computer hardware and software company I founded in 1977 (coincidentally, 45 years ago) which was run by Autodesk founders Dan Drake and myself, and on whose hardware the original versions of what became several Autodesk products was developed. Fourmilab also hosts the Marinchip Systems: Documents and Images collection about Marinchip and its products.

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When Autodesk was incorporated on 1981-04-26, shares in the company were distributed to founders at a price of US$ 1 per share, with founders having the option of purchasing shares for cash (in which case they obtained a warrant entitling them to purchase another share in the future for the same price) and purchasing up to US$ 3000 worth of shares via a personal IOU from the company (to accommodate founders who didn’t have liquid cash or useful computer equipment to trade for their shares).

Taking into account stock splits, each share, originally purchased for US$ 1, was worth US$ 180 when Autodesk went public on 1982-06-24. At the most recent high on 2021-08-25, each original founder’s share would have, if held all those years, have been worth US$ 123,217. An Autodesk founder who made the minimum investment of US$ 3000 in 1982, borrowing the money from the company, and never sold a share of stock, would have owned stock valued at more than US$ 369 million in August of 2021.

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Tangential issue. I went down a YouTube WW2 rabbit hole regarding why countries continued to produce obsolescent equipment. Several videos discussed the costs of setting up factories or converting factories from producing one product to another. One noted the significance of just copying all the needed engineering drawings for a tank or aircraft.

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The company I work for used to do complete machine design and fab for our internal equipment so we have a lot of machines that were designed in the 1960s and 1970s. We have full rooms full of print cabinets. I don’t know if anyone even knows how to find a print anymore.

On recent upgrades we have been using Faro as is machine measurement to get 3d models of existing equipment layout.

I changed majors from Mechanical to Electrical Engineering after my first drafting class. What a painstaking process. When I started working full time, I was exposed to AutoCad so, even though I didn’t design, I knew it was wonderful immediately. Now I wish I would have been smart enough to invest just one paycheck. :slight_smile:

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It can be very difficult cloning or transplanting a manufacturing facility. Not only was there the need to copy all of the drawings, there was a lot of knowledge not encoded in drawings and often not written down at all. Part of this is “production planning”: which processes and machines you use to make the parts to the specifications in the drawings. This is something that takes decades of experience on the shop floor to do well and changes depending upon the volume of manufacturing and the materials going into the part.

In 1929, Ford signed a contract to deliver a turnkey automobile factory to the Soviet Union, which would become the GAZ vehicle manufacturing industry. Although Ford sent a large cadre to bring up the factory, the experience was frustrating because quality control of inputs was far below that assumed for the U.S. manufacturing process and workers were not trained to do the tasks required. It was not until 1932 that substantial production was achieved.

Digital representation of drawings and, later, 3D models of parts has simplified the process of transferring a design, but there remains a large amount of “lore” about how things are really made which results in fabrication being less portable than many globalists imagine.

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Dan Wang, who is an interesting observer of China’s industrial scene ( About | Dan Wang, Gavekal Dragonomics and Bloomberg contributor ) has on several occasions made exactly that point. It is like trying to make one of grandma’s recipes – you need grandma’s detailed recipe (IP) and a well-stocked kitchen (capital plant) … but the dish will still not taste like it did when grandma made it. There was essential process knowledge in grandma’s head. That knowledge can be gained only by doing.

One of the big costs of offshoring so much manufacturing is that the process knowledge which was handed down from worker to worker has been lost. Rebuilding factories in the West – if it ever happens – will be only the beginning of a long painful relearning investment.

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