A brief history of computation

We can summarise the history of computation in terms of five eras: the 2D drafting era, the 3D modelling era, the building information modelling (BIM) era; the design computation (algorithmic) era; and more recently, the machine learning era.


All tools modify the gestures of their users, and in the design professions this feedback often leaves a visible trace: when these traces become consistent and pervasive across objects, technologies, cultures, people, and places, they coalesce into the style of an age and express the spirit of a time.1


Era 1: 2D drafting
The first era of computation mimicked drafting, documenting pen drawings, sketches, and bluebrints. The original Computer Aided Design (CAD) system was Sketchpad, developed by Ivan Sutherland in 1963.2

Ivan Sutherland’s Sketchpad, 1963

It would take a further 20 years to make this technology affordable and accessible to a wider audience with AutoCAD released in 1982 – continuing the practice of representing…

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