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History of DesignCAD ?
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* March 02, 2014, 04:04:23 AM
I see from perusing and reading various posts on this forum that DesignCAD goes back some way, in fact there is a lot of mention of previous versions and 'Basicad' , I also see there is a Basicad forum here too - what is Basicad, is this a separate CAD program or what?

I wonder if someone could enlighten me on when DesignCAD started ?

Did DesignCAD start as 3D or did it start off as 2D and develop into 3D ?


March 02, 2014, 04:13:21 AM
Way way back.  80s,  chisel and rock days.   It was miles ahead of AutoCAD and such.

Just to get you going.


March 02, 2014, 04:24:45 AM
I started using it in 1990 . . . but Phil is the most senior user (87) that I can think of. 


March 02, 2014, 05:34:15 AM
what is Basicad

A programming language within DesignCAD.  A favorite and most essential feature for me because what DesignCAD doesn't do the way I want, I roll my own.


* March 02, 2014, 08:22:53 AM
Wow, thanks for this, thanks for the link - what an amazing thread with so much to study...what have I let myself in for! I have the tutorials to go through and now a history of DesignCAD lesson. It really sheds some interesting light on all things CAD, when you consider that these days so many CAD programs state that theirs is the best and so on, when in reality DesignCAD has probably already 'been there and done that'.

The thread also has some very strong cases for and against Windows versions too! I can't really comment on this as for me I have only been using computers (any kind) for the last 3 years ...  seems amazing yes/no? I have picked up computing quite easily, but have to admit that I was strongly against using them and had an aversion to them in fact for the good part of half a century, but eventually I gave in - what with being surrounded with them all day long (wife,kids, family,friends, work etc. etc.).

My first computer was windows xp then 7 and now 8.1, so for me its all I know and as for CAD programs the two I tried out were absolute C**P!

Thanks also for explaing what Basicad is.



March 02, 2014, 08:44:11 AM
I started using it in 1990 . . . but Phil is the most senior user (87) that I can think of.

I'm probably right up there too.  V1 in '87 or '88.  Expensive hardware back then.  I bet I had $4500+ invested.  A 4Mb memory expansion card was $1200...


March 02, 2014, 11:05:08 AM

The original program was called ProDesign, and it was produced by American Small Business Machines, Inc. (ASBM) in Pryor, Oklahoma (I have no idea why I remember that!). It first came out in 1985. I started using it in 1987. It was 2D drafting only, and sold for $300.00.

For comparison, my company originally looked at a CAD program that ran on Digital Equipment PDP-11s sometime in the mid 1980s. The program sold for $100,000 and the PDP-11 system was another $50,000. It was far out of our budget range ($150,000 in 1985 = $325,000 in 2014).

We started using AutoCRUD (about $1000 per copy) on an IBM PC, and that program was horrible! It had one of the worst user interfaces ever designed. We got a trial version of ProDesign, then bought several copies and dumped the AutoDesk crap in the garbage. I remember it took something like a dozen menu operations and mouse clicks to set a single point in AutoCRUD, and you could do it with a single gravity snap in ProDesign! I think gravity snap was a ProDesign invention.

From the very beginning ProDesign had one of the best user interfaces ever created - and it carries forward to today's DesignCAD. The programmer's name was Robert Webster, and I think he was a genius. He wrote the first version in Pascal, an interpreted language that was all the rage in the '80s and has mercifully gone the way of the dinosaur. The Pascal version was very slow. Then the fellow rewrote the entire program in assembly language - one step above machine language (1s and 0s). I love assembly language! The new version was astonishingly fast (compared to the old version).

ProDesign lost out to AutoCRUD because of advertising. While ASBM spent it's energies producing the best CAD program AutoDesk put it's money in marketing morons. They were everywhere, promoting AutoCRUD as the best program ever written. Well, if you tell a lie often enough there will be gullible people who believe it. It was marketed to the business morons who had the buying authority for big companies, but who knew nothing about computers or CAD. AutoDesk was very successful with this approach, and it is how all large CAD programs have been marketed ever since - put chocolate on a cow pie and sell it to business majors as brownies.


ASBM merged with another company started by Bob Webster's brother to form Viagraphics in 1995/96. They changed the program name to DesignCAD and made some nice supporting materials, training videos, and such. But they were mainly a video tutorial company. There were some improvements to the program at that time.

Viagraphics was sold to Learn 2 (a video tutorial company) in 1999, but they weren't interested in DesignCAD so they sold it to Upperspace (another company started by Bob Webster) in 2000. They made some improvements and sold it to IMSI in 2003.  However, Upperspace is still selling ancient versions of DesignCAD (Version 3000) and DesignCAD Express on their web page!

In 2005 Bob Mayer and his associates formed IMSI/Design LLC and bought DesignCAD and TurboCAD from IMSI.


I'm not sure when BasiCAD was introduced. It is a "macro" language based upon the BASIC entry-level programming language from the '70s. From the beginning it has been a pretty powerful macro language. DesignCAD also has a System Developer's Kit (SDK) that allows additional program functions to be attached to the program. Magic System's ContourCAM is a fine example of a C++ program integrated with DesignCAD through the OLE interface.

In 1992 the 3D version (V4?) was introduced for MS/DOS. I remember that it took 90 minutes to shade the fishing reel drawing that came with the sample drawings. And I had the fastest PC that I could build at that time - 22 MHz '286 with a math coprocessor and a whopping one megabyte of RAM!

V4, V5 and V6 were for MS/DOS. V4 and V5 had different 2D and 3D versions. V6 was 2D only.

In 1993 the first Windows 3.1 version of the 2D program (V7) was released. There was no 3D V7.

The 3D V5 for Windows followed the 2D V7.

A 3D V8 was released in 1995 for for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95. There was a separate 2D V8 for MS/DOS. With V8 and later versions the 2D and 3D versions had the same version numbers.

A 2D/3D Version 9 was relased in 1997 for Windows 97, probably along with a 2D only version.

In 1999 V10 was released as DesignCAD Pro 2000, a 2D/3D version for Windows 97 and Windows NT4,  and DesignCAD 2000 Express, the 2D only version.

Somewhere along the line the 2D/3D version became DesignCAD 3D Max.

Up to 2003 the 2D/3D version cost $500 and the 2D only version sold for $300. IMSI dropped the prices to $100 and $50. Occasionally you can get a "bargain sale" of a new package of the 2D/3D version for under $70.

I recall reading a review of CAD packages in a trade magazine, and it didn't include DesignCAD. I contacted the writer and asked why. He said he was interested only in "serious" (read expensive) programs. We continued the discussion and I educated him about DesignCAD. He learned that the inexpensive DesignCAD could do a lot of things the very expensive programs like HP's ME-30, Solid Works, Pro Engineer and such couldn't do. For example, some (all?) of these $10,000 to $20,000 programs couldn't generate 3D machine threads and DesignCAD could! Expensive cow pies.

When Upperspace sold DesignCAD to IMSI in 2003 I figured that was the end of DesignCAD because IMSI owned TurboCAD, a competitor to DesignCAD for inexpensive CAD packages. I expected IMSI to kill DesignCAD and just use the mailing list to try to sell TurboCAD, but fortunately they didn't.

Since then we have seen continuous development of DesignCAD, although IMSI has put far more effort and money into TurboCAD. Too bad, because DesignCAD has a far superior user interface, in my opinion.

DesignCAD version 15.3 was a pinnacle in program development. It was almost bug free and rock solid. Unfortunately, after that most of the experienced programmers left DesignCAD, and things went downhill for a while. V16 was so bad that we threw away all of our copies - I never installed it.

V17 was a bit better, but still buggy. But shadows were introduced in V17 and that was a major improvement for 3D rendering.

Back in the V18 beta development days a new experimental rendering engine was introduced. However other changes to the program added so many bugs the renderer was abandoned and all programming effort went into fixing the bugs. The big problem was a switch over from the older DesignCAD way of dealing with dimensions to the new code making DesignCAD compatible with th AutoCRUD dimensioning system. As usual, the DesignCAD dimensions were far more versatile and easier to use than AutoCRUD's system, so this was a step backwards for ease of use, but it was an improvement in allowing dimensioned drawings to be exchanged with other CAD programs. The rendering package never resurfaced.

V19 was buggy. V20 fixed a lot of the bugs. V21 was better, and V22 better still. I think V23.0 is probably as reliable as V15.3, and a lot of very useful features have been added.

The latest big change is an effort to eliminate the ancient Windows 3 display code and replace it with the up to date RedSDK package. Every time a new version of Windows comes out the old display code has to be patched. As a consequence it has dozens of bugs. The change over to RedSDK will be painful for the programmers and beta testers, but it should bring major improvements to the program. IMSI has already incorporated RedSDK into TurboCAD.


Thanks to DT, magic, prl, Bob P and Pearco for corrections and additions.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2014, 12:00:51 PM by Dr PR »

DesignCAD user since 1987

March 02, 2014, 11:12:15 AM

. . . im recollection of the history of DesignCAD. Anyone see any errors or have more to add?

Phil, you forgot Upperspace.  They came between Viagra and IMSI. As you said, version 15 was peak energy by Upperspace IMSI.  I think IMSI took control in 2004 2003.

Edit: Looks like version 13 was the last Upperspace.  Versions 14 and forward are IMSI
« Last Edit: March 02, 2014, 11:27:00 AM by prl »


March 02, 2014, 11:36:58 AM

Thanks. I modified my original post.


DesignCAD user since 1987

* March 02, 2014, 11:43:16 AM
Thank you phil, my hat (hang on, who's nicked me hat -Josh (NO.1 son) come here) goes off to you for the time and effort you spent on this, I sense some reminiscing too  ;).

I hope that the guys from IMSI read these posts too, as I wonder if they realise how great a program they have here (mind you, I guess they do, else they would have 'killed off DesignCAD) and the wealth of experience and knowledge you fellas have racked up between you over these years ... good on you all.

I like the sound of this Basic program language, are there free tutorials also for this for use with DesignCAD ? (might as well ask about this too).


March 02, 2014, 12:06:59 PM
Sometime about 1995 the 3D version was introduced. The first 3D DesignCAD ran on Windows 3. I

Since we are working the little grey cells.  And I'm sure BobP will pull a rabbit out of his hat but the first 3d version I have was DOS version 4 in 1992 by ASBC.

And here is something that is fascinating.  The drawing in the DOS DesignCAD ver 4 background is from this topic, the quick model I just made this morning, March 2, 2014   Think about that.  A program from 1992 pulled that up.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2014, 12:12:56 PM by prl »


March 02, 2014, 01:39:57 PM
My recollection is that the first release of 3D was really buggy, and V2 wasn't much better.  Version 4 was pretty good, and I used it up until a couple of years ago because of the many macros I'd written.  Functionally (not visually) it let me work faster than any Windows version without the macros.  I'm still writing new macros to match my earlier versions.

For me, the biggest advantage to the Windows version is more layers: The DOS version only allowed 63, and many of my assemblies used them all.  One of the transition requirements was a rewrite of my layer macro suite.  Much more usable than DC's native layer system.  What I call "View" in the selection window is actually a group of layers.


* March 02, 2014, 01:51:11 PM
Prodesign (the original DesignCad) was written by a Robert Webster. I still have my first user manual and the copy right dates are 1985 and 1986. American Small Business Computers, Inc. 118 South Mill Street Pryor, OK 74361.

User since ProDesign 1.5

March 02, 2014, 02:09:54 PM
Here is something I don't know.  When did DesignCAD become 2d/3d?   

ver 10 2d/3d Windows called DesignCAD PRO 2000 (Upperspace in 2000) is the first version I have where they are both together. 

the rest I know
« Last Edit: March 02, 2014, 02:34:46 PM by prl »


March 02, 2014, 10:10:11 PM

If I recall correctly the first version with 3D was both 2D and 3D, just like today. I think this is true because we used just one version and we created 2D and 3D drawings - mostly 2D at that time, but I played a lot with the 3D version. Maybe they produced both the 2D and 3D versions at the same time.

The early 3D version was really buggy, and some of those bugs persisted through V12. In particular, the Solid Boolean operations totally trashed the resulting solid. It had errant points/planes all over the place. You had to explode the solid, delete the screwed up plane and redraw the missing pieces. Then you used "Solid Define" to put them all back together again - like Humpty Dumpty.

This has me wondering if we can piece together the version history of ProDesign/DesignCAD, complete with dates and the operating system they worked with. Wonder if DT has this information?


PS: I added your corrections and Pearco's to my earlier post.

DesignCAD user since 1987