That awkward moment when I just failed to create BIM

I recently updated my resume, and I thought it might be relevant to include an episode from my early career. This post is an expansion on what I had to say about that episode.

I was managing a tiny CAD training and development company, Educad. Much of my time there was spent developing software called NIDIS (originally called NEEDS), a project that was started in 1987 or 1988 with Nixdorf Computer as the client. It was intended to take over the market among first the home building companies of Western Australia, then Australia, then the World!

What’s special about NIDIS is that it was a precursor to BIM. Using a 3D-adapted version of the 2D Educad architectural software within AutoCAD, designs of domestic homes could be efficiently created and infused with a degree of intelligence. This was then linked to the Nixdorf minicomputer-based software that contained pricing and other information about the various building components. This combined system enabled accurate quantity take-offs to be performed.

This was supposed to be a short project, but due to a massive amount of “scope creep” it took two years. I was really pushing the limits of what AutoCAD could be persuaded to do at that time and had to break new ground in several areas. Some of it was a kludge, but I made it work. Finally, the software was essentially completed, with a custom tablet menu (remember those?), full documentation and everything. Nixdorf CAD-spec PCs with big screens, tablets, AutoCAD and NIDIS were installed in the drawing office. It was successfully tested in Beta. The take-offs were very accurate. Everything looked good to go.

Then, two weeks before it was due to go into production, this project died. The building company that was sponsoring it, Mansard Homes, went into liquidation as it struggled unsuccessfully with the combined effects of very high interest rates and bad publicity about poor building quality and cost overruns. Nixdorf dropped the whole project like a hot potato and the product was never sold. I didn’t have any rights to the software and couldn’t do anything with it.

But it was software that was based around a 3D model of a building that contained some intelligent information, albeit extremely crude by today’s standards. I wrote, quite literally, Building Information Modeling software. It was completed in 1989, before the name BIM had even been used. The idea had existed since the mid 70s, but I didn’t know that at the time so I made it up as I went along.

I didn’t actually invent BIM, but I made something that resembled BIM that actually worked. And then it didn’t.

This is easily the most spectacular failure of my career. Still, I’m kind of proud of it.

Edit: for historical context, this video shows an unrelated system that was developed at about the same time as NIDIS.

One Comment

  1. Carl

    Cheers! At least you were able to create something… I still have in my head a 3rd party application that I’ve piddled with since 1988…. but due to work, kids, and such (including laziness) lol I’ve still never put the time in to make it…
    Good for you!

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