If you missed any of the previous “From the Slide Rule to the Metaverse” blog posts you can do a quick search using the term “metaverse” to get the links for Parts 1 – 4.
Part 4 brought us up to my learning about a small surveying business located in Henniker, NH that was using AutoCAD as a platform to build programs that automated the design of septic systems and basic land surveying tasks. This consulting business was owned by David C. Arnold. He soon named the software business DCA Engineering Software and closed the surveying business.
Dave and I hit off as we were both UNH Civil Engineering graduates. Within a year we had merged the two businesses and a few of us went to work for DCA. In addition to Seacoast Engineering, I had also started the first GIS consulting business in the Northeast U.S in 1982. Land Systems was one of the first PC Arc Info resellers for Jack Dangermond’s ESRI start-up. More on that in a minute.
DCA recognized the value of being aligned with Autodesk (he changed the name of the company to Softdesk) and over the next 7 years he built a 300+ person company that was the leader in AEC add-on programs for AutoCAD, which at the time was a plain vanilla PC CAD system that sold for $1,000. In 1997 he sold Softdesk to Autodesk for something like $80 to $90 million.
It might have been a lot more if Dave and Jack had been able to agree on a deal to merge the two companies, but it did not work out. Autodesk got wind of things and cut DCA out. Some 30 years later Esri and Autodesk are finally working on the integration of CAD and GIS. So they claim. That’s another long story in itself.
With Softdesk sold I had to choose whether to go to work for Autodesk, or take the IP that I had been working on for a software product that we named GPS Pro Explorer. To understand where that came from we need to back up 5 years to 1992.
For 3 years, from 1992 to 1995 I left Softdesk to lead a consulting team that developed an energy management system for the federal buildings in Ottawa, Canada. That system was 20 years ahead of its time.
In 1996 I returned to the U.S. and became the third employee at Blue Marble Geographics, located in Gardiner, ME. That is where I was introduced to software components which included the ability to plug in a handheld GPS receiver to a lap top so you could display your location on USGS digital topo map – INCREDIBLE. The software component cost $299.
In 1997 I let Blue Marble and went back to work for Softdesk. I had a small team that was working on a digital mapping product. As noted above when Softdesk was sold I was left with two options – take a job with Autodesk, or take the GPS Pro Explorer code and start a new business. I chose the latter and MPN Components, Inc. was born. The M stands for mapping, the P for positioning and the N for navigation – components.
I told you the 1990’s were a wild ride, but the first decade of the 21st century was not far behind. More to come of From the Slide Rule to the Metaverse..
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