Computer Aided or Assisted Drafting is what CAD stands for. The most descriptive definition we can give this type of program is a drafting board inside a computer, giving an accuracy that cannot be achieved on the drafting board.
CAD had its beginnings in the early 1960s when an engineer named Ivan Sutherland developed the concept in a program called Sketchpad. Although very primitive by the standards of today, it was very effective in creating accurate drawings.
Later, other programs were developed and called by different names and all created drawings in two dimensions. None the less, they all had the same benefits in that there were less errors in the drawings because of the infinite accuracy of the program and also the drawings could be re-used and altered easier than paper drawings with less waste of time and materials.
By the 1980’s, some of the earliest commercial CAD programs were inexpensive enough for individuals to purchase. These were AutoCAD, CADRA, MicroStation, Generic CADD, and CadVance to name a few. My early experience was with AutoCAD and then in the beginning of the 1990’s, Generic CADD Level 3.
Then when 3D programs started to appear on the market, the stage was set for more complex applications. One of the finest I ever used was a program called Generic CADD 3D which in effect, was so easy to use I was creating complete isometric and oblique drawings of homes on the first day of use. I guess it was because the interface, which was so similar to Generic CADD Level 3 that the learning curve was short. With the use of two letter commands and simple controls, the 2D program only took a couple of days to master.
At this time AutoCAD already had 3D integrated into their 2D package, but it was so complex to master, I didn’t pursue learning it. The creators of AutoCAD however, bought Generic CADD out and it was downgraded to a less useful package.
Although there are programs like 3D Home Architect and Chief Architect on the market today which all but draws everything for you from the floor plan you create. CAD is still the leading program type in most architectural offices.
It is amazing but even though I have mastered quite a few CAD programs, I still sit down at the drafting board from time to time just for old times sake. Actually I do it more to just keep the discipline alive.