Every now and then it is important that we take some time to look back and reflect on how things have changed over the years, and appreciate the factors that helped us develop.
Three moments a2s defining in the history of structural engineering software; the shift from punched paper cards to pixels, the rise of the personal computer, and graphical user interfaces.
In the 60s, engineers used mainframe computers. Owned by giant corporations or the government, these machines known to users as “Big Iron” didn’t have screens. Data input was coded as a pack of punched paper cards which were fed into the mainframe, and output would come out as a data report with values printed on endless reams of paper.
Once computer monitors came into use, engineers developed programs that allowed data values to be filled in, and data output was displayed on the screen – a much more efficient process, saving time and paper.
The next big thing in the industry was the introduction of personal computers – now having unlimited access to a desktop computer allowed structural engineers to develop their own software. Results were still produced in data tables, which meant finding specific values and figures was a lengthy process.
As CAD programs appeared on the market, engineers saw the opportunity for data analysis through graphically displayed models. And though these programs have evolved over time, the basic idea is still used today.
The current discussion revolves around our industry’s possible direction. If structural engineering follows overall technology trends, we are heading towards cloud-based and collaborative software solutions becoming the norm. If that’s going to be the next big thing in the industry, only time will tell, but it sure is an exciting time to be in this field.