Recently, at the request of Autodesk, Design News hosted a roundtable discussion for that company's customers on the transition from 16-bit to 32-bit computer operating systems and software applications. It's a worthy topic.
Sixteen-bit operating systems, such as DOS and Windows 3.1, are less efficient than 32-bit systems, their advocates say. The former works in separate chunks of memory, each 64K bytes in size. The latter works in 4G bytes of contiguous memory. The result: You can run more complex calculations on designs faster. AutoCAD, for example, runs roughly 20-25% faster on the 32-bit Windows 95 or Windows NT than on the 16-bit Windows 3.1.
Participants in the Roundtable added that 32-bit applications on 32-bit systems are easier and more stable (less prone to crashing) than their 16-bit cousins, and enable both conceptual and detailed design on the same machine.
"The world is moving toward collaborative computing, multi-tasking, and the Internet, and away from DOS," says Autodesk's Ken Welch. AuotoCAD has been a 32-bit application for several years, Welch says, though he adds that Autodesk is not abandoning DOS.
In other forums, representatives from Intergraph, SolidWorks, and other companies have said or implied that Windows has won the desktop wars. Solid Edge and Imagineer Technical CAD products from Intergraph, and SolidWorks 96, like its predecessor SolidWorks 95, were developed specifically for the 32-bit Windows platforms. Likewise, Parametric Technology's PT/Modeler is also a 32-bit application and runs on Windows 95 and Windows NT. Indeed, Dataquest says that Windows holds the dominant share of the PC operating system market.
Which system and applications are best for your own engineering tasks? This is the perfect time to be thinking about those matters.
Autofact '96, said to be the premier trade show for users of CAD/CAM/CAE, gets underway in Detroit November 12. Those who attend will have the chance to kick the tires of new 32-bit and other products intended to improve the design engineering process. Design News will be there, and we'll report on the hottest new products on the exhibit floor that just might make you even more productive than you are now.