DataCAD Stories

Software for AEC Professionals Since 1984

On April 2, 2014 DataCAD celebrated its 30 anniversary. As much as I like to share my own stories, I want you to share yours. This might include how you were first introduced to DataCAD, or how DataCAD has been influential to your practice, or why you chose DataCAD over one of its competitors.

In addition to this, I am most interested in the work you have done. After all, that's why DataCAD was created in the first place. So please, share your accomplishments. I want to see your drawings, your renderings, your buildings, or anything else you may have created using DataCAD in the process.

This could be a current project, your favorite project of all time, or something from the early days of CADD that illustrates just how far you've come. I would also like to include your submission here, along with the others we have received.

Thank You,
Mark F. Madura
Mark F. Madura
President/CEO
DATACAD LLC
mark@datacad.com

 


 

DataCAD Stories

 

I remember when I was first introduced to DataCAD more than 25 years ago. I was working with an architect at a design-build firm and the owner's son decided it was time to adopt computer-aided design. So one day a pile of boxes arrive containing a desktop computer, monitor, pen plotter, and DataCAD 3.6. All told, it was probably around $15,000 worth of hardware and software.

So I took the set of binders home to read about how to use DataCAD, then found out I needed to know as much about computers as I did about the actual software. Does this look familiar?

C:\MTEC>rundcad

After taking a few classes at Entre Computer Center in Providence, Rhode Island, many late nights, and much trial and error, I finally produced my first plotted sheet. It was a floor plan for a 'tin can', or metal building as they are formally called. I was so proud of myself that I would have pinned it up on the refrigerator if I wasn't 22 years old at the time.

I was so excited and brought the drawing in to the owner to show him my accomplishment. He was supportive, but not exactly impressed. He spent $15,000 dollars and all I did was prove, after much effort, I could do the same thing with DataCAD that I could do with a pencil and paper.
Schwartz House
Fortunately after that, the investment started to pay off, and I was getting thank yous from the crew out in the field. The drawings were easier for them to read and I could duplicate details in the 'correct' orientation when appropriate so they didn't have to do the rotation in their heads. Desktop CADD has come a long way since then.

-- Mark F. Madura

 


 

It was in the spring of 1987 when I became intrigued with the possibilities of CAD. I never thought much of it during grad. school at the Harvard GSD in the mid-70s -- I thought it was pretty gimmicky and rudimentary at that time. But I had recently started my own practice and as an inveterately messy draftsman, I was always smudging my drawings with my sleeves. I had recently started to hear about CAD and I thought maybe CAD would be a way to deal with my messy drafting!
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--Evan H. Shu, FAIA


 

Congrats on 30 years. I still use DataCAD when I have the chance for architectural plans and modeling for use in my traditional sketches & watercolors. These days I give most of my time to full-time ministry as the pastor of Christian Life Church in Rehoboth, MA. A long way from the days of Anthony Nunes and Bristol, Rhode Island eh?

-- Bob Bernier


DataCAD’s First Paying Customer
by Bruce Chitiea

I cannot be sure that I deserve the #1 slot. It depends on how you measure it. Honors for the first ‘civilian’ user certainly belong elsewhere, likely at the Southern California Institute of Architecture in Santa Monica CA where Microtecture received an early unofficial staff review.

As noted below, my use of Microtecture begins in late 1984 on the Corvus Concept, prior to the introduction of the PC version and the name "DataCAD" in spring 1985. I do recall that my first PC-compatible serialized disks (Concept beta disks bore no serial numbers) bore serial number 10005. Microtecture’s control of basic production and control data was pretty loose during its first years, so I can't speak to numbers 10001 - 10004. (I'm proud to be able to say I ended up with single-digit serial numbers for one helluva lot of now-famous things).

I’m probably the first commercial DataCAD Dealer in the Western United States, as I began recording Microtecture sales in spring/summer 1985. Another early dealer from Virginia Beach, David Porter, may actually hold the top spot and may stand - shoulder-to-shoulder with me - in Dave's memory as the biggest whining, complaining, ungrateful, never-satisfied, always demanding pain-in-the-ass beta tester in the early network. I'd like to think that our input helped make DataCAD what it is today, although I'd sure hate to be on the receiving end of MY input.

My DataCAD story begins in Las Vegas in late fall 1984. Griff Berg and Eric Smith displayed the 'Microtecture' suite of architectural CAD, accounting and job costing software in an outlying gallery of some trade show - possibly Comdex - which I was prowling for useful CAD tools (Note that 'DataCAD' came later to avoid a copyright dispute with a prior registrant of the 'Microtecture' name).

I had been testing and applying early 2D and 3D CAD products since early 1983 to my mechanical design practice: large-scale fire and explosion suppression systems for refineries, high-rise buildings and military facilities.  Operational design requirements well exceeded the abilities of anything but the large minicomputer based systems of the day, crying out automation solutions.

Invited by vendors and manufacturers to help prove the utility of desktop CAD at trade shows and CAD seminars, I had the unique opportunity to discern the collective wish of many design disciplines, coming away with a clear understanding of what would constitute a viable desktop CAD system. Like everyone else at the time, I was feeling my way into uncharted territory. Our high hopes for desktop CAD ran well ahead of available technology, and anyone trying to profitably produce drawings had to contend with serious, debilitating limitations.

The Victor 9000, NEC something-or-other, Corvus Concept and Sage boxes were the screamers of the day, all running at pretty much the same speed of 4.77 mhz. Each could support high resolution monochrome (800 x 400), and made useful tools. The IBM PC and PC-XT, with their support for 12", 320 x 200 CGA 4-color resolution and 600 x 400 monochrome simply couldn't provide a useful production experience.

Scroll speeds (on all but the Motorola 64000-based Concept) were so slow that most production drawings combined plotted, parametrically-placed symbols and manually-drawn lines, text and dimensions. To enjoy a comprehensive digital experience, you paid CalComp or Intergraph $500,000 and trained for a year, which meant we could only hope and press on.

On this background, the 2D-to-3D wire-frame translations produced by Microtecture on the Corvus Concept in Las Vegas simply knocked me over. 3D aside, 'simple' things like WALLS and CLEANUP features were RADICAL advances for the day. (Anyone enduring floor plan creation with AutoCAD's POLYLINES feature can tell you why). The Corvus display - a rotating tall/wide screen designed for graphics - was unequaled at the time.

On the spot I wangled myself a beta slot, exchanged my children’s' birthright for a Corvus Concept in November 1984, eagerly received the (4? 5?) 5.25" Microtecture floppies and began translating symbol libraries from Victor-9000, CP/M-based AutoCAD. In the process I managed to assemble a 'comprehensive' set of architectural office and project management products (running in the UCSD Pascal "P-System"), incorporated "Chi Computer Systems, Inc." and got set to tear up the world.

Ah, but it was not to be. Seeing the writing on the wall clearer than I, Griff and Eric pulled the plug on Corvus Concept development and converted everything over to a code base suited for the 80286-based IBM PC-AT and its radical 640 x 350, 16-color EGA graphics subsystem. The onrush of the IBM/PC-DOS juggernaut could not be denied, and I (grudgingly) made the switch to evade destruction beneath its wheels.

That's when life became interesting ... and expensive.

P.S. A note on an underhanded marketing trick I pulled at an AEC show, sometime in early 1986.

I handed out a floor plan with doors, windows, intersecting walls, one rounded corner, string and baseline dimensions, wrapped in a title block, with text to the effect: ”Ask every vendor to demonstrate these simple, basic operations”. The AutoCAD dealers coming to my booth were not smiling.

 


 

I could probably top your story with being one of the original DataCAD version 1.2 users. My career was started at the University of California, San Diego thanks to DataCAD back in 1985. My hobby was computers and CADD was one of my interests. As a self-employed general contractor in custom residential construction, I did my own design and drafting. CADD held the promise of making my job easier, and after trying AutoCAD, I wasn’t quite sure it would.
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-- William 'Bill' Shull


 

I was working for another company in 1994, producing architectural drawings by hand, trying to save up to buy AutoCAD so I could show my boss all of its advantages over hand drawings. It would have taken me about a year to get the money together to buy AutoCAD. Then I received a post card for DataCAD 5.0 for $150 with a money-back guarantee. I figured it would be money down the drain, but I'd give it a try.
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--Paul Rabinowitz


 

In the Mid 80's I was a small builder. I went to the local builders' show where Charrette was showing off this computer with a pen plotter. I too spent $15,000, justifying it by saying it was just a tool like a pickup truck. I had some classes in my office. Then I was putting my recent spec house into the computer. A couple came in and said, "If you would change this, this, and this..." I said, "You mean like this, this, and this?" They purchased the home and I paid for my computer the first month. It's now 2014, I still have DataCAD, and I use it all the time.

--Doug Conn


 

I have been using DataCAD since 1991 when it was $3,000, and suggested to me by a previous employer. I went out to Carol and Karl Buehrens office in Anaheim Hills and did a demo for the afternoon with Carol. In four hours I was faster using the system than the AutoCAD 14 system I had at the office. I was sold. Purchased a new 486 computer with 20” monitor and DataCAD for around $12K as I recall. I've never looked back.
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--John Douglas Thomson, AIA


 

I am a licensed Civil and Structural Engineer in Massachusetts. Yes indeed, C:\MTEC>rundcad is very familiar. Those were the DOS days. I started my first engineering business, Prestige Engineering, in 1984. In 1985 I sought out the best software that I could find at that time that would be good for designing framing for buildings. It had to be easy-to-use and fit my needs for civil and structural drafting.  AutoCAD at the time was cumbersome and unfit for my needs.
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--Val Prest


 

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for DataCAD. I still have my Ver. 3.5 disc. Drawing files were DC3 before the DC5 format. I’m retired now and no longer have drawings or rendering to share. I do still give services to others as a gift from time to time using DataCAD 14. I can’t justify the cost of upgrading to the latest version now.
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--John Gorman


 

Attached are two montages of some of my DataCAD work for 2013. I created these a few months ago to compliment an assignment about my vocational currency for a teaching qualification upgrade course I was undertaking. I created the montages to protect both the designs & the project/client identity. As you can see, I not only use DataCAD for architectural work, I also use it for mechanical services drafting.
Rendered Plan
I teach/lecture at RMIT University in Melbourne Australia, and I have created numerous DataCAD models & drawings to assist in teaching building construction and drafting.

--David Anderson, Korumburra Drafting, Australia


 

Lewis + Malm Architecture was introduced to DataCAD around 1990 when, as a small firm just starting out with minimal capital, we decided that making the move to CAD would be fun and a market advantage. We were all tired of tracing drawings, electric erasers, and pounce aprons!  We invited three vendors to come to our office to demonstrate their programs. I believe the programs were VersaCAD, AutoCAD, and DataCAD. We gave each of them a test: Draw a simple room in plan and put a 2x2 ceiling grid on it. The first two labored at their keyboards mightily and tried to explain to us what they were doing in techno-ease. We understood little.
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--Don Lewis


I started with DataCAD 2.something in May of 1986 on an IBM AT with a math co-processor and a 'screaming' 1MB of RAM on a full-length daughter card. I didn't know squat about DOS, so a secretary set up a batch file to launch DataCAD. I met Griff Burgh here in Lubbock, TX when he swept the country promoting the program. At that time, I had about 1 1/2 years experience with VersaCAD and how you had to back out of every command sequence by pressing the [Q] key multiple times. DataCAD was a dream for how you could easily jump between commands. My AckCAD [sic] buddies didn't believe me. I did hate the digitizer; turned out a slick dealer told my boss we had to have it. Dennis Beese and I wore out Dave Giesselman and Clay Rogers on the phone. Thank goodness times have changed and DataCAD is very well alive.

--Brent Gollihugh†


I started using DataCAD in June of 1986. At the time, you could buy DataCAD at a discount if you bought it through AIA, which was recommending the program. I can't remember the version; 2.3 I think. I will never forget that the salesman was a guy named George and he was from Charlottesville. I bought the whole system: AT&T PC6300 with math coprocessor, high resolution color monitor, DataCAD, and a Houston Instruments single pen plotter all for $10,978.75 (I think).
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-- Dennis Beese


I first encountered DataCAD in 1989 while evaluating CAD software for use in the 5 year Bachelor of Architecture program at Spring Garden College (alas, now defunct) in Philadelphia. The version I checked out was 3.something and was at the time being sold by Microtecture of Charlottesville, VA. DataCAD 3.x had recently been recommended by the AIA for its members. It came on 5 1/4 floppies and I was impressed with what it could do on my 286/10MHz with a 287 math co-processor.
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--Stephen Mallon


Congratulation’s!

I remember back in 1999-2000 when I was a Sr. Project Manager at Deloitte, a very close and dear friend, Greg Barriere, introduced all of us in the Real Estate Facilities Group to DataCAD instead of AutoCAD LT. Greg was working with us as an independent consultant at the time. Well, he did a great job in convincing Deloitte and the rest is history. Again, I want to thank you for your vision and leadership with this software. May the updates and new parameters prevail.

--Peter C. Chipouras


I am the first user in Israel. I purchased DataCAD 3.6 directly from Microtecture and we've enjoyed DataCAD for the last 25 years. Thank you very much for DataCAD.

--Hezi Cohen


My experience was similar to yours. Around 1985 I was a junior partner of medium sized commercial architecture firm in Silicon Valley, when I attended a computer trade show at the Orange County Convention Center. It was there that I met Griff Burg and several others from Microtecture, and personally bought DataCAD (I think version 3.1). I installed the software on my home PC, purchased a 24" wide Houston Instruments pen plotter and managed to get it working (I think I had to make my own plotter cable).
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--Terry Briggs


I remember the early days in Charlottesville. I also remember an address I gave to the National AIA where I described CAD as "looking through a toilet tissue roll with one eye, and having someone hold my mouse for 30 seconds every couple of minutes." The issue then was speed, speed, speed!

Our firm adopted DataCAD early on and has used it ever since.

--John Hitch


Congrats, you've hung in there. I remember a rented van full of DEC OS/78 boxes and line printers, and the Houston Instruments DMP-42 plotter clacking as the pen jumped up and down. How did we get this old?

--Dick G.


I was first made aware of DataCAD in 1989 right before my daughter was born. My business was growing like crazy and I knew I had to implement CAD in the firm to be competitive. I had heard about a company just down the road from my offices in Springfield, MA that had both CADD and CAM software available. I went to a big soirée they had and met one of their “salesmen”.
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--David K. Sargert, LEED AP
Partial Portfolio


My DataCAD story is short but interesting. Before owning my first computer, I interviewed with a large construction company for the position of compiling their entire portfolio of house plans into computer format; specifically a CAD program (I had been designing homes for many years using a drawing board). The company owner asked me during my interview if I would be able to handle this transformation of their product. I convinced him that I could and I was hired. This was on a Friday afternoon.
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--Ron Carter


Many congratulations on the 30th anniversary of DataCAD.

It's such pleasant surprise to get your LinkedIn invitation and I am very thankful, admire, and appreciate that you thought of me on this special occasion and still remember my name. I have faint memories of the work I did for DataCAD porting to Delphi, but that's definitely been one of my proudest moments. As my first job I have a special place for this in my heart. Delphi was new in the market and I had some experience with it from my internship project at a previous company. So I was an obvious choice for DataCAD migration to Windows using Delphi. I also had the opportunity to ramp-up Reddy and the team at CAE on Delphi.
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--Alka


I still have my printed manual binders from CADKEY for DataCAD 4 on my desk. I learned so much about being systematic from those extensive manuals and virtually use the same customized hotkeys in DataCAD 16. Back in those days we used to talk about staying at the front of the curve with respect to software releases. I also use ArchiCAD expressly for BIM, but all of our section details and cross sections are generated in DataCAD then imported into ArchiCAD as PDF's which makes for much nicer details. It's efficient that way, at least for us and the work we do. One of my staff members refuses to use ArchiCAD and prefers DataCAD. Once you get on a roll, it is difficult to switch.

Keep developing DataCAD, and thanks for your dedication.

--Gary Finn


I started using DataCAD in 1984 after seeing it at a trade show. I was using an AT&T 6300 (I think) with an 8086 processor and monochrome monitor. I've relied on DataCAD ever since and have appreciated it over these three decades.

Keep up the good work and don't give up.

--Geoff Gogan


For the last twenty years, I have been doing patent drawings; so far, about 350 inventions and a dozen patents, along with my architectural practice. I doubt I would have had near the output with any other CAD system. I have not needed the 3D and rendering features, yet. Maybe I will play with them in retirement; if I ever retire.

Happy Anniversary!

--Robert 'Bob' Pollack


I started my own business, Peter Dall'Alba Design, in 1987 and predicting the transition to CAD, I started looking at the options available. I attended a local College and participated in an introductory course to AutoCAD. After taking the course I stated to my wife, "if this is CAD I will be staying with manual drawing. It is just an electronic drawing board but more cumbersome".
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--Peter Dall'Alba


My history with DataCAD began in January 1985 with Version 1. I had formed my own architectural company in the fall of 1984 doing mostly school work. I allowed one of my senior designers to develop one particular project. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a disaster and many hours of work was round filed. I made the decision to go CADD and let everyone go. I purchased DataCAD mid-January and completed a fairly large elementary school addition (the project whose drawings were round filed), including site drawings, by the end of February.
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--Dennis Norton


This happened when I was working at CADKEY in Windsor, CT. I was in the Technical Support area answering calls and received one about Version 3.6e not installing. Well, after some trial and error (those were the DOS days), I concluded it might be a problem with the installation disk. I told the customer I could send him a new disk (remember the 5 ¼” floppies?) and asked him to send me his copy. About 20 min. later, one of my co-workers placed a fax in my in box. I was speaking with Steve Ormonde at the time when I picked up the fax, read it, then burst out laughing. The customer had faxed a photocopied picture of his installation disk along with the hand-written message, “Here is my copy, Thanks.”

--Mark Hyjek


Congratulations to DataCAD for reaching the 30 year milestone.
Rendered Plan
I started with DataCAD 5 in 1994, ten years after starting my design business in 1983. I have tried numerous CAD programs for my custom home design business. Some were more expensive and some were downright cheap. My focus has always been on the two-dimensional working construction plans. When I was first interested in 3D presentations, I found that the time and computer memory necessary to create them cut greatly into my production drawing time in addition to filling up hard drives quickly. I decided to put off the 3D until it was more cost-effective. Fortunately, my business has thrived with DataCAD as my production platform of choice and I have had no real need to offer 3D presentations. That remains a feature of DataCAD that I have only begun to explore.

--Bob Fallis


I started my practice in 1989 and purchased our first "solo" CAD station in the early 90's when DataCAD was owned by Microtecture (I believe the first version we had was 3.6e). Our system was an IBM XT (I can't remember how slow it was, but 20MHz sounds about right). I do remember that the graphics card was so large that the case had to be split for installation. The entire system, plotter and all, was a $25,000 investment. My goodness, how things have changed!
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--Chris McFadden


Congratulations with this jubilee!
Rendered Plan
I was first introduced to DataCAD at the end of 1994 by a letter with a nice flyer from Ireland (still have it). At that time I had a little experience with AutoCAD. When I saw the offer on the flyer, and I compared it with AutoCAD, I couldn't refuse it. So I bought DataCAD 5 in November 1994. I quickly learned to work with it and it was fun, and still is. In 1996 I upgraded to DataCAD 7, in 1999 to DataCAD 8, in 2002 to DataCAD 10, in 2003 to DataCAD 11, and in 2009 to DataCAD 12.

I wish you continued success.

--Marten Taekema


I started using DataCAD 4 sometime around 1991. It came on a few 5 1/4" floppies and was a gift to me from an architect I had done some summer work with while on break from college. He was a one-man shop and was closing his practice to move to a large firm as a partner. He had selected DataCAD to buy from a Shoot-out article that was written comparing DataCAD to AutoCRUD [sic]. So, when he was packing up his office, he gave me the disks and a letter to DataCAD bequeathing me his software so I could get the updates and fixes that occasionally came out.
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--Michael R. Spencer


First, let me congratulate you on “Going on 30” at DataCAD.

It’s been a while since we last talked and I hope all is well.  I received your e-mail as well as one from Evan regarding your anniversary and a request for stories and examples of work using DataCAD. As one of the “old silver haired architects,” I hope I don’t disappoint by offering the following:
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--Barry Buchinski


I was first introduced to DataCAD after graduating from Uni in 1991 and moving north from Perth to Darwin where the firm I was employed with was just making the transition from board to CAD. The practice had purchased 4 DataCAD 3.6 licenses from CADKEY which were still packed in boxes. A week later, once the computers arrived, along came DataCAD 4 so this was version installed. My previous training was with CADKEY’s Eagle software on an HP Unix system plus Alias Wavefront on Sun Spark computers as well as some AutoCAD 9-10 use.
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--Mark Bell


Congratulations on DataCAD's 30 years!

I have been using DataCAD since version 5 when I got permission to transform the small firm, where I was then a draftsman, from paper and pencil into the computer age. I spent many hours at home in front of my computer with headphones going over the teaching cassette tapes until I felt confident enough to bring that knowledge into the professional environment. Of course, the more I played with it on my own, the more things I discovered and learned, and before too long, the office had transferred entirely to DataCAD generated plans. It was a fun (and nerve-wracking) time.
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--Kevin M. Higgins, Architect, P.C.


Sparkman & Associates Architects, Inc. has been using DataCAD since it came out. When I was hired in 1993, they were on version 4. DataCAD was my first introduction to CAD. On my first project, I was given a rudimentary lesson, and given a design to work on. Unfortunately, as I stayed late at night to finish the floor plan, when I tried to erase something, I erased the entire drawing (I hadn’t known “group” was selected). To this day, I do not use the “group” selection method. At the time, I didn’t know I could undo the last command, so I stayed up all night redrawing everything.
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--Daniel Scott Cooter, Assoc. AIA


After my wife and I purchased our first Apple IIe around 1982 or so, I quickly started to realize the potential for the computer to revolutionize architectural design documentation. I attended the 1984 A/E/C Convention and trade show where Autodesk, Bentley, HP, and many other vendors were showing off the new CADD software and the hardware required to run it. The major vendor’s booths were so crowded it was impossible to be able to speak with anyone in depth about the software. There was one small booth for a company called Microtecture, however, that didn’t have a huge crowd around it, and had several representatives that were available for discussion. I don’t recall who I spoke with, but after quite a bit of time, and a host of dumb questions on my part, I arranged for a one-on-one hands-on demonstration at a future date.
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--James Goodman, AIA


Everything I have designed in the last, I forget how many years, has been designed using DataCAD as my only CAD tool; the list of projects is pretty long. I quit bothering with marketing quite a while ago realizing that design work just found me in sufficient quantity to keep me as busy as I wanted to be. So proposal and project list making got to be a thing of the past for me about six or seven years ago. I will have to do a little work to make a current list.

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--George Robertson


I am an architect in Muncie, Indiana using DataCAD for more than 24 years now. I want to thank you for DataCAD and all the time, work, effort, and investment that it takes to develop such a high quality program for such an affordable price. Our office would not be nearly as efficient, nor profitable, if it were not for DataCAD and the capabilities of this great software. I also appreciate this opportunity to share with you our DataCAD story. I hope you enjoy it.
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--Bruce Everetts


 



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