DAXCAD

DaxCAD is actually still being used. By a British manufacturing customer! Read on!

What is DAXCAD
DaxCAD was and still is a CAD Package used by a handful of companies throughout the world in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. It origins stem from Paisley College of Technology, now known as Paisley University. It was written to be able to have a cheap, simple to use CAD application for a range of industries. As it happens it was sold to just a about all sectors from government to finance. In fact General Accident insurance used DaxCAD to design all of their regional offices. DaxCAD was integrated by Racal as their circuit board designer and by Advent as their mapping tool. All in all, not a bad pedigree, but if you on the web, nothing exists regarding this interesting little bit of software.

Its History
DaxCAD was started by and was the brainchild of Kirk Ramsay, a senior lecturer at Paisley College. He had started a small software company, Practical Technology Ltd in Glasgow around 1984. The company was founded at tie when IT was starting become more commonly available in the form of downsized workstations. The intent of the company was to ride the wave and make as the name suggests, technology practical.

After looking at the existing market offerings for CAD, namely Dogs and CV, Kirk felt that there was a space for a product which was cheap and easy to use, as both of these packages were enormously expensive and rather hard and complex. So the DaxCAD project was born. With a handful of software engineers Kirk set about writing a CAD package to compete with companies and products much larger. The guys involved were – Kirk, Neil Mackinley, Miles Midgley, Mhari Watt and Charlie Ward. A couple of others came on board, Gerry Goervan and Alex Alan to provide a sales team.

It took around a year to get the whole thing written into a product. The language was of course Fortran and the chosen platform for a launch was Apollo running its Aegis operating system. (Hp was purchased by Apollo in 1989). Apollo was a company formed to build high powered workstations capable of running CAD applications at a reasonable cost. They used a Motorola 68000 processor. (Actually it was a double up arrangement)

So a product was born. The office in Glasgow was at 120 Cornwall Street in Clutha House on the South Side of Glasgow. PT did open a southern office in Guilford a couple of years later. It was about this time that the PC market was starting to expand and CAD products such as AutoCAD and RoboCAD were appearing on AT PCs. Practical Technology had based its product around Apollo, however it became clear that Apollo, albeit was a lot cheaper than other systems, the PC was going to be a mass market product. So an ambitious project was started to shoehorn essentially a workstation product written in Fortran onto a PC.

In technical terms, the software utilised the superb memory management capabilities of the Aegis operating system. Basically you could allocate as much memory as you had disk space. So 20 and 40 Megabyte disk drives gave pretty respectable memory capabilities of an application. However the PC as it was then with MSDOS was limited to meagre 640k. So that’s why the shoehorn had to be used, Miles Midgley constructed an amazing Fortran overlay arrangement where DaxCAD was swapped in and out of memory and the drawing data was written out to disk. To save space screen drivers were written in Assembler. We still managed to keep the two versions running so that PC users could have the same functionality.

Checkout my DAXCAD page at http://www.dhrobertson.com/daxcad.htm for more info on this legacy software.  We are wikipedia as well! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daxcad

And more posts on this site: https://daverobertson63.wordpress.com/category/daxcad/

 

7 thoughts on “DAXCAD

  1. Hello Dave
    I used to use DAXCAD at Ariel Industries Leicester. I was the rist user at the company, we increased the seats to about 5. It was useful in the marco programming side of things and it was my first CAD pakage.

    Glad to here its not been forgotten

    Des Burns

  2. Hi Dave,

    I started at a company G.L. Rexroth (as it was known in those days!!!) in Kirkcaldy as an apprentice and I am still there!! AAAHHHH!!

    I remember the company changing from Practical Technology to DATACAD.
    We Initially bought DAXCAD for a Olivetti PC (real fast screen redraws!! not!) and bought a further 4 workstations DN3000, DN3500 token ring and all that stuff. Now we are using a mixture of ProEngineer and AutoCAD. DAXCAD was very easy to pick up and similar to Ronseal What you say is what you do!!! LOL

    Great to hear DAXCAD is still “Living”.

    All the Best
    David M

  3. Hi Dave

    Delighted you are keeping the DAXCAD legacy alive and well. It brings back many many fond memories for me.

    Kind regards

    Alex Allan

  4. Hi Dave; thought I’d like to add my name to your list of employees. I joined just after Miles and Charlie, having also been one of Kirk’s students, and worked on the user manuals, including attempts at translations into French and German!

    How are you doing Alex?

    Colin Bowman

  5. Hi Dave,

    Wow, this is a real blast from the past. I remember Daxcad very well. I just googled the term for fun.

    I was a Mech Eng. Paisley Tech student and Kirk Ramsay asked if i wanted to work there during the summer in 1982 or 83. Had a good experience there, they were a cool team. My memory is foggy these days but I remember Miles, Charlie, also a female programmer and I think Alex who posted above. Am sure Alex ran the training courses, think he was a tenant of the female programmer at the time. Weird how some memories stick!

    I was involved in the PC porting from the Apollo system. Also remember writing a re-labeling program in Fortran 77 and doing research into deeply nested subroutines and their effects if calling a hierarchical routine. Its funny cos I remember getting a bit bored one day on that project and changed the subroutine naming and the screen outputs, so it would make things interesting by having the output print sentences e.g. Subroutine ‘the Mashed eye’ called from Subroutine’ from the bloodied zombie’ in ‘ subroutine’ the graveyard’ or similar nonsense. However, it did make it easy to see my flow paths but not exactly the most professional approach!

    Funny enough i bumped into Miles at a tradeshow a few years later and apparently when Daxcad crashed one time some of my gory test code had been left in there for some reason and appeared to customers. He said it made a good talking point with customers from then on. I guess this mischievous nature is what has led me to be a computer game developer!

    Well, it was a nice 5 minute trip down memory lane, guess i better get back to work!

    Eamonn Barr

    1. Hi Eamonn – aye those were the days.. The code is still around and working on Linux and Windows if you want to waste more of your time..

      https://daverobertson63.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/daxcad-lives-on-ubuntu-14-10/

      That is a great story – I was an Apollo boy so never got involved in PC and the PC code is long gone – the systems all crashed due to Scottish Power digging up the road outside the office. We could not get the disks back online but things had moved on and we were only working on Unix at that point… I did some work for a customer in 2003 who wanted to convert his original PC drawings to DXF… Thats what I call proper lifetime warranty support

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