``Caustic'' has two meanings. In mathematical optics, it refers to the figure formed by rays of light reflected or refracted into a singularity--a mathematical point where the trend reverses, when what was converging diverges, and vice versa. In chemistry, it's a corrosive substance, prone to etch away even substantial structures. As the 1980's pass into the 1990's we seem to stand at a caustic moment in both senses of the word: we're passing through a time when linear projections based on the past provide little guidance for the future; a time when the structures, institutions, and dynamics we've assumed were fixed for many years seem to be disappearing into dust to be replaced by...what?
AutoCAD, as well, is poised at a caustic moment in its history. Having grown comfortably in a fairly linear manner for the last seven years, it is now faced with user requirements and market challenges that dwarf any in its history. AutoCAD will need to grow into something much larger than perhaps any of us can today envision, and must do so on an accelerating time scale. We can achieve these goals: goals I believe essential if Autodesk and AutoCAD are to remain dominant in the market, only if we decouple the evolution of AutoCAD from the necessity of modifying the AutoCAD core code. The AutoCAD core must not just cease to grow--it must shrink in the future. By removing IGES, which in an ideal world would never have been in the core to start with, we can commence this process.
In several years, AutoCAD can come to resemble, not the intimidating monolith of code it now is, but a community of independent and cooperating applications, each developed and maintained by a small team expert in that aspect of the overall task and able to grasp the totality of a program that, by division of labour, has been reduced to a scale the human mind can comprehend. The AutoCAD user will see increased capability, better user interfaces, and improved reliability. If we do our job correctly, the seams won't show, any more than you wonder if the mitochondria in your cells are really you. This caustic moment, while marking the high point in the growth of the AutoCAD core, may also be a key milestone on the long road toward AutoCAD's ultimate destiny.
...all for his sagacity,
Better it is to eschew loquacity.
To make your study grandiloquence,
And busy quibbling devoid of sense,
Argues an empty mind and sick,
In point of fact a lunatic.
And so, I'll close.
Muir Beach, California
December 26, 1989--January 1, 1990
1568 lines of code
Editor: John Walker