Throwback Thursday – The Roaring Twenties of Computing

This is the 35th year of Autodesk and AutoCAD, and in the past year I have exchanged emails with the founder of Autodesk, John Walker. I asked John about the beginnings of Autodesk and also asked about what he sees in the future of technology given that he was at the beginning of the wave of PCs back in the 80s and took big risks on several early technology including one that became the most used CAD in the world changing the design world, AutoCAD.
Here is John’s answer to one of my questions in email this time looking forward from his own perspective.

Shaan: What innovations in technology are you most excited about today?

John Walker: Notwithstanding all of the hype and over-promising, I believe the promise of additive manufacturing is still greater than many people
appreciate.  I think we're at about the 1982 personal computer level
of impact of this technology: it's finding serious applications in
large companies with deep pockets, but the mass market is still
largely closed to the hobbyist level.  In the longer term, its
ultimate destiny is atomically precise manufacturing, which will
allow making anything which can be modeled.

I talk a lot these days about "extravagant computing".  When you can
buy three terabytes of storage for a hundred bucks and gigaflops of
processing power by the minute in the cloud, we're at the threshold
of a revolution like the PC era which helped Autodesk succeed.  The
difference is that in 1982 we could, and did, look for mainframe
applications which would become practical on the PC platform as the
technology continued to grow exponentially.  Now we must look for things
which have never been possible before which will become feasible simply by
"brute-forcing" the problem with massive compute power and storage.
The next decade, when these technologies will become mainstream, is
what I have been calling "The Roaring Twenties".

It is fascinating to hear the perspective of a tech pioneer that was there in the beginning of the PC era and the company he founded still around and successful today 35 years later unlike the many that litter the alley of forgotten tech history. Although John has been away from Autodesk for 20 years, he still keeps up on the latest technology and trends as well as pitfalls.

I completely agree with John about Additive Manufacturing being in its early days and the large impact it will have on manufacturing and design in the future. John’s “Extravagant Computing” or as we call it “infinite computing” and “cloud computing” is also something Autodesk believes in as computing cores are getting cheaper and cheaper each year to process more data providing more computation and hyper accurate simulation including “Generative Design” where computers can optimize or design products.

I enjoy being the self-appointed historian at Autodesk and looking at all the history, memorabilia, progress, and change over the years. You can’t go forward without knowing where you came from, what you learned, and how you got here. It will be very interesting to look back in 35 years on where we are now.

Happy 35th Birthday Autodesk!