What is the oldest CAD / PLM software in use today?

What is the oldest CAD / PLM software in use today?


The technology around us is changing very fast. Even if you are 17 year old, you can already find your first computer equipment or electronic toy in a museum. Last weekend, I had a chance to visit Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. If you are checking around San Francisco and Silicon Valley, try to get there. There are some great pieces of electronic equipment there such as fully functioned  DEC PDP-1 from DEC Restoration Project or Honeywell 316 Kitchen computer from 1965 that was never sold to anybody.

Usually we are concerned about the speed of technology adoption. But, visiting CHM made me think about about an opposite side of technology adoption – computers and hardware that are still in use. Engineering and manufacturing industry is one of those industry that is using technologies and products for a long period of time. There are multiple reasons for that – manufacturing programs with very long lifecycle, product that requires maintenance usually requiring to keep using the same or compatible software, some regulation requirements and others.

Among many articles about history of CAD, PDM and PLM software, my favorite is David Weisberg’s The Engineering Design Revolution. If you never seen that, take it as a weekend reading, I’m sure you will have fun. I captured few interesting examples of engineering software related equipment in Computer History Museum. The work of Ivan Sutherland at MIT is well represented there. But, I never seen the following example of mapping of Sutherland’s Volkswagen in Ca 1977.


Gerber Scientific plotter advertising from 1965 as part of mini-computer promotion (btw, with attractive price of $28,500)


Summagraphics tablet from 1980 with AutoCAD menu and samples of AutoCAD software from 1984.


What is my conclusion? The life of software sometimes is longer that we think. Still, I believe, there are few pieces of software running written in COBOL and FORTRAN. It made me think about some old CAD and PLM software that is probably still in use in some companies. And maybe there are are few CAD, PDM and PLM systems that running for 15-20 years without changes? It would be interesting to learn about these examples. If you know some of these, please share in comments.

Best, Oleg


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  • MrJones

    I once heard that weather simulations are done in fortran, because it yields the best performance. Dont underestimate old programming languages!

  • David

    Here’s a CAD product with history (and shameless advertising)…. technically many features of PLM were built into PDMS right form the very begining, i.e. locking/claiming of objects, relationships, spatial indexing, etc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PDMS_(software)

  • beyondplm

    MrJones… You’re right. I never heard about such FORTRAN usage, but I’m sure many calculation programs were done in FORTRAN and they could be alive for a long time.

  • beyondplm

    David, thanks for sharing this link! Most of “PLM” systems were advertised in the context of MCAD domain. But their functionalities were identical to some plant design or even BIM systems.

  • Having dealt with a COBOL system not all that long ago, I am always astonished at the longevity such systems. Just recently a developer has been working on a bridge between COBOL and node.js, can you believe it? http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/08/calling-1959-from-your-web-code-a-cobol-bridge-for-node-js/

  • beyondplm

    Ed, thanks for such a great example… yes, long live COBOL!

  • jberends

    most aerodynamic solvers and stress tools are programmed in FORTRAN. Very common in engineering and science and -still- relevant today.

  • beyondplm

    Jberends, thanks for brining this point up! You are right – the optimization of FORTRAN code for calculation was amazing. It is something very hard to beat, even today.