1990: Mystery Meet/Meat

The North American Autodesk User Group (NAAUG) was the original brainchild of John Forbes, then a senior Autodesk representative. Before John became an Autodesk employee, he had been a user of Autodesk software and an Autodesk dealer; he knew that AutoCAD software users could benefit greatly from sharing their knowledge and experience of the software with one another. So, in 1989 he began planning the first national meeting of AutoCAD users in San Jose, California, near Autodesk's headquarters in Sausalito.

The meeting was held at a fine hotel, the Fairmont, where most of the attending users stayed and attended all of the organization's meetings and meals (provided by Autodesk). The food was so fancy that few recognized what it was...folks still laugh about the "mutant bran muffins" served at breakfast (I think my digestive track is still processing the one I had) and the "mystery meat" served at lunch the first day of the conference. I will never forget the first open forum session held in the main meeting room. There were 700+ people in attendance that year, all of whom were anxious to find out who in the room had answers to their questions. The mood of the event on its first day had been cautious and perhaps overly professional; suits and ties were everywhere. It wasn't until the general forum session that I remember things relaxing. At one point, attendee Gale Gorman, of the Las Vegas AutoCAD User Group, got up to the microphone and asked if anyone else in the room was a user of AutoCAD for Xenix. Not a peep was made for almost 10 seconds; the whole room broke into laughter and someone shouted, "So you're the guy who bought AutoCAD for XENIX!" From that moment on, the whole event seemed more casual, and less intimidating.

These first days of NAAUG were exceptional in that the founders and programmers of Autodesk attended the meetings. One could actually talk, one-on-one, with people who had complete control over the code's future. This was a remarkable opportunity at the time, and people who attended this gathering saw the immediate results of their requests in the next version of AutoCAD. Users discovered that their opinions, expertise, war stories and wish lists mattered to Autodesk, and that NAAUG was the vehicle which made this possible. Autodesk also took this meeting seriously, making sure that users were given every opportunity to express their concerns, and to let them know that their input was valuable to the future of AutoCAD.

Highlights of the meet included a wonderful presentation by Joel Orr on his vision of future interfaces, from screens to keyboards, from GUIs to CAD programs. His predictions were remarkably accurate given what has happened seven years later. The first Board of Directors was voted into office, and the first Bylaws were voted into place. I don't think most people realize how much effort the first Board of Directors poured into the first draft of the Bylaws. It was a tremendous amount of work and we remain grateful to this administration for getting NAAUG on its feet.

Autodesk gave a presentation on the latest version of AutoCAD, and then everyone was split into discipline-specific groups so that educators could meet educators, architects could meet architects, and so on. Thus began the first Special Interest Groups (SIGs). The whole show was a great success, and users from around the country also found time to relax in the evenings and make new friends. Some of these after-hours sessions were just as productive as anything planned during the day. People went home completely enthused about this new idea of networking with other AutoCAD users, and having direct contact with Autodesk.

The 1991 Board of Directors were:

President: John McQuary / Fluor Daniel
President-Elect: Jay Reinhardt / Bechtel Corp.
Secretary: Norm Ruddock / Compaq
Treasurer: Craig Allen / Chevron Information Technology Co.
LUG Representative: Phil Kreiker / Looking Glass Microproducts
AEC SIG Chair: Tom Conti / Walt Disney Imagineering
Mechanical SIG Chair: Dan Schlig / Harris Corp.
GIS SIG Chair: Mike McGrath / Delaware Dept. of Agriculture
Senior Autodesk Rep: John Forbes / Autodesk
Manager of User Group Services: Kathy Clinton / Autodesk

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