Why I use Macintosh computers for Patent Drawing—not an Accident

Fan5It’s hard for some of us to imagine that a couple generations have grown up now who never knew a time when there were not computers available to do just about everything and anything we want done. I do remember when even the first commercial transistors were being created in the laboratories of Texas Instruments. I grew up in Dallas, and as a Boy Scout we toured the facilities in Plano north of town which impressed me so that I will never forget. William Shockley had invented the transistor, and I was thrilled to see in person the actual original prototype on display at TI. Then we got to see the stages of creation of the silicon wafers that were turned into integrated circuits and the sterile, surgical-like clean rooms in which they are produced. I suppose it is pretty much like brain surgery…

The first calculators cost over $600 and could perform only the 4 most basic arithmetical functions. But this business advanced (and still does) at warp speed, and by the mid-1980s DOS based computers appeared followed closely by the original Apple I and II, and then the mighty Macintosh. I confess that I really did give Windows machines a crack at this, but back then they were not Windows, they were 286 and 386, and took forever to render graphics of any complexity. Moreover, you were pretty much stuck with AutoCAD, and I remember with no fondness whatsoever my struggles with Release 9 to get any sort of satisfactory results in terms of Patent Drawing. Although I began this particular phase of my career in 1980, by the mid 80s I was totally frustrated with pen and ink, as once something was committed to India Ink on Bristol Board any corrections or changes were tedious, painfully slow, and frequently the decision to simply trash the entire sheet and start over had to be made when weighed against the time and trouble to make extensive corrections. I was seriously considering just giving up this whole business, but I was somehow sure that advances in computer technology would someday make it possible and practical to do this sort of work and kiss pen and ink goodbye forever, and good riddance. I had no idea how soon that day would come.

I made the acquaintance of a man in Dallas who had a little Mac SE, the sort with two floppy drives and no hard drive at all, but once I saw what could be done with MacDraw and the primitive Mac OS available I knew this was the way to go, and I held on until the SE-30 appeared, and I bought one with a 40Meg hard drive (that’s Meg, not Gig) and a 9 inch monochrome screen. I had to have an HP LaserJet III with Postscript in order to print my work, because this was before the Internet and emailing PDFs became the standard for communicating these things back and forth. The whole thing cost around $6000 which I had to finance with a business loan, but I was off and running and never looked back.

So what makes the Macintosh so great when it comes to illustration? The big deal back then was what is known as WYSIWYG (what you seen is what you get), and this was important as what we take for granted now was not so common. Remember that there was no Windows, only DOS, and with AutoCAD it was frequently impossible to see that what you were drawing on screen was what the thing was really going to look like when printed out. In particular, you had no sense of line weight as that was simply assigned, and you had just remember what it was supposed to look like and keep all this straight in your head until printing and then go back and adjust things that didn’t look right. Apple’s WYSIWYG let you see on screen exactly what it was going to look like, and it looked much better on a Mac than anything else. Moreover, circles and arcs, etc. in AutoCAD were not true circles and arcs with a center point and a radius, but were really polygons with discrete straight lines small enough to more or less pass for a circle. But this is not really illustration, and with the Mac I found what would do the job and let me be in control. Moreover, the Mac had the ability to fill objects like circles or polygons with white or black and “stack” them on top of each other in layers which overlap and hide what is underneath the top-most object. This was fabulous, as the only thing approaching this in AutoCAD was a hidden line command that took forever to execute and had to be executed each time just prior to printing. This command did not hide anything the way the object layering on the Mac did, but actually removed the hidden lines that would otherwise be visible. What a nightmare.

Then ClarisCAD came out, and it was all smooth sailing. It had really useful tools, bezier curves, precision placement of objects, polar and rectangular arrays—just about everything an illustrator could hope for. It had a very small CPU footprint, and the resulting files were small and easily accommodated by the small hard drives available at the time. Naturally, the SE-30 gave way to a newer, faster machine, and I went through a steady progression of the latest offerings that I could afford, and even tried one of the famous Mac clones that came out, and it worked just fine until Apple put a stop to it. Life was good… until ClarisCAD was terminated.

I had to find a replacement, and not just any replacement. I still had some time before time marched on and an orphaned program could no longer perform on newer machines. I tried everything I could find: Canvas, Adobe Illustrator, MiniCAD, AutoCAD for Mac (when it still existed), and PowerDraw from Engineered Software. This last one had promise, but was not there yet. I wanted a ClarisCAD clone, and a couple iterations later, PowerDraw was the undisputed winner. Eventually it morphed into PowerCADD that we have today, and with every new technology advance and every software advance it has only gotten more capable and elegant. Because of its open architecture, third parties can and have written plug-in tools for it, and the GrandDaddy of these is Alfred Scott with his contribution of WildTools which is like getting two CAD programs in one. I have rhapsodized about WildTools through out the years, and some of that is featured on their website at:

http://www.engsw.com/mark-rhodes/

where you can see even more of my work. Yes, I am a dedicated Mac user because there is no better platform for doing what I do. And I love to spread the Good News.