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The Autodesk File

Bits of History, Words of Experience

Edited by
John Walker

Fifth Edition, 2017

The Autodesk File chronicles the history of Autodesk, Inc. and its principal product, AutoCAD, through contemporary documents edited and annotated by Autodesk founder and former CEO John Walker. The book traces the company from the first glimmer of an idea in the minds of the founders, through start-up, initial public stock offering, and growth from a loose confederation of moonlighting individuals to a leader in the industry of computer aided design. The book is available in several different editions, suited for on- or off-line reading with various tools. Click on the titles of the section describing the edition you prefer to view it or download to your computer.

Fifth Edition

The Autodesk File: Fifth Edition The Fifth Edition (2017) of The Autodesk File was prepared to commemorate the thirty-fifth anniversary of the founding of Autodesk in 1982. Except for correction of a few typographical errors, the content is identical to that of the 1994 fourth edition, but the book has been entirely reformatted and updated to contemporary Web standards. The typography uses Unicode text entities, and should be much easier on the eye. Each chapter is now a single document, instead of being broken into sections and subsections, and easier to read without incessant clicking on navigation buttons. All of the AutoCAD sample drawings used as illustrations have been re-made from their original PostScript plot files with higher resolution. The pop-up windows for footnotes (which were irritating and ran afoul of some browser pop-up blockers) have been replaced by [Footnote] icons which display the footnote when clicked. Cross-references are indicated by an [Ref] icon which navigates to the cited page when clicked. A navigation bar at the left provides instant access to all chapters, and highlights the current chapter regardless of how you arrived there. The Fifth Edition is compatible with most modern desktop browsers. The Safari browser on iOS mobile devices (iPad, iPhone) has a serious flaw in scrolling text within a window which has remained uncorrected for years. On these devices, you can read the iOS work-around edition, which contains a device-specific fix for the problem.

Fourth Edition with Frames

For older browsers which which support frames, this edition allows navigation through the book with a panel which lets you click chapter titles and go directly to that chapter. If, in addition, your browser supports JavaScript, simply moving the mouse over a footnote icon, like this one: [Footnote] will pop up a window containing the footnote. Moving the mouse over other footnotes displays them in the auxiliary window. Browsers without JavaScript (or users who have disabled JavaScript in their browsers) may display footnotes in the main document window by clicking the footnote icon, then use their browser's “Back” button to return to the main text. Users with more modern browers will find the Fifth Edition easier to read and navigate.

No-Frame Web Edition

Works with Any Browser Users with browsers which do not support frames, or those who prefer a more linear presentation in a single window, may access a no-frame edition of The Autodesk File with identical content to the frame-based book. The no-frame edition includes the pop-up footnotes present in the frame edition, but since few browsers which lack frames are likely to support JavaScript, you can simply click on the footnote icon to display it, then use the “Back” button or keystroke to return to the text containing the footnote.

Acrobat PDF Edition

Acrobat PDF Screen If you prefer to read the book off-line, you can download a PDF edition (5.8 Mb, ZIP compressed) which you can read with the Adobe Acrobat Reader utility, available for most personal computers and Unix workstations, which may be downloaded free of charge directly from the Adobe Systems Web site. The Acrobat PDF edition preserves all the formatting of the original book, some of which was lost in creating the Web editions, and permits point-and-click navigation among chapters and to follow cross-references in the text.

Adobe is one of the most consistently irritating companies on Earth with which to do business. I'd like to give you a nice button for downloading your own copy of Acrobat Reader, but they won't let me use the image without “registering” and “licensing” it, which I'm certainly not going to do in order to promote their product and its file format.

PostScript Edition

The Autodesk File was originally typeset using TeX with the LaTeX macro package. Camera-ready copy was generated from PostScript created by the dvips utility. The PostScript edition is a single monolithic file, more than 16 megabytes, containing the entire book as originally typeset. You can read it on-line with a PostScript viewing program such as GhostScript (which is free), or print it on any PostScript-compatible printer. Before sending this file to a printer, consider that the book is almost 900 pages long! This is a big print job, which will consume lots of paper, toner, and, potentially, good will of any colleagues with whom you share the printer. The PostScript edition may be downloaded as either a ZIPped archive or a gzip compressed PostScript file; both are 4.9 Mb in length and uncompress to a 16 Mb PostScript file.

by John Walker