Revit and Building Information Modeling

Revit watch from the launch party for Revit release 1This is a post about time. How it goes by — and then unexpectedly comes rushing back on you.

Earlier this week, I had to send my mechanical watch back to its maker for some work. That sent me to the kitchen drawer — you know, the one with all the stuff in it — to see if I had something I could wear in the meantime. Damned if I didn’t find a Revit watch, pictured nearby, in the bottom of the drawer, still running, accurate to the minute. This was a premium for invited guests at the Revit release 1 launch party in 2000 at Harvard University. I don’t remember who we gave the watches to — but I clearly remember that we only had the money to buy 50 of them. I never wore mine until I found it this week. I do remember seeing one on Rick Rundell, who deserved one of the 50 if anyone ever did. But if any others survive, it’s a sure bet they don’t have the acid flashback effect on their owners this one did on me.

Just seeing it lying there in the drawer set off waves of images for the old Revit Technology: the sense of technical accomplishment and the realization we were gonna change the world; Leonid yelling; Irwin computing and Dave herding cats…the architects in marketing and QA crying on 9/11 about the twin tragedies of the Twin Towers: the death of all those people and the death of the buildings. The Friday pizza parties at which everyone — me included — had to use the product to design something. The ADT “shelves” (we sent wooden shelves to Autodesk ADT instructors as a gift, calling them the “perfect platform” for the new release Autodesk had just shipped). The Autodesk execs in shock at a trade show when they were EOLing a release of ADT and we had a guy in white face on the “upgrade treadmill” jog silently for three days to make our point about Revit subscriptions. The launch video we had the temerity to ship on every Revit CD.

I remember like it was yesterday. How we built community among architects (what social media was called then); our innovative packaging and pricing; Autodesk’s hyper-reaction as we labelled them as the legacy enemy; Graphisoft’s fury that we’d outdone them technically. What a time.

The history of BIM in Revit

I decided to Google “Revit history.” After all, Revit has achieved under Autodesk’s regime what I doubt we would have ever been able to accomplish: dominance in its market. I wondered if users cared at all about the short-lived Revit Technology.

Google returned some 2.4M results. [update 2022-01-08: make that 8.4M results when seearching for ‘Revit history’!] Plenty of them are about the features in the product, of course. But some are about the company. Most come from the perspective of the blogger or writer. Wikipedia, as usual, gets it completely wrong, especially with respect to Building Information Modeling.

I chuckle every time I hear the term BIM. Trust me, Jerry Laiserin’s and Wikipedia’s claims notwithstanding, the term was invented on April 8, 2002 at Autodesk’s Manchester, NH offices, exactly two weeks after the acquisition of Revit Technology closed. In the room were Dave, Phil Bernstein, me and others. Dave, after months of testing various terms to communicate our original idea of a building database, suddenly blurted out the term — which I instantly loved. Some of the Autodesk people present couldn’t figure out if we meant “building” as a verb or a gerund. They hated it. I kid you not. Dave and I had to persuade Autodesk to give it a try — and the corporate people in San Rafael nearly killed it. Through sheer force of effort, Dave imposed the term on a reluctant Autodesk from whence it passed into general (as in GSA!) use.

Revit’s history lives on

Here’s an interesting post that details what it felt like in R&D to be part of Revit. This is from January, 2012! I can’t believe it’s so current for some folks. I also stumbled upon the travelogue of Ralph Grabowski’s trip to and photos of the Revit release 1 launch party. (Ralph fails to mention — among his complaints about the hotel, his dismissal of our prospects and his side trip to SolidWorks — that we paid for his trip. 12 years and I’m still upset.) Another astonishing find: an early Revit demo, done in Flash, professionally voiced (I spent more than I should have) designed by Rick and scripted by Rick and me.

Finally, the original Revit promotional video, [edit 2013-01-17: someone made the link for the video private. I guess there’s still someone in Autodesk smarting over the drubbing they took from us. But don’t worry; I had the original file. Check out the Revit video.] the one Matt Jezyk is talking about in Tammik’s blog post. You wouldn’t believe how much money we spent on this. You could only get this done with a CEO who understood marketing. As I remember, it had something like 64 layers on the Avid system. We shot it in Watertown, with a beta build of Revit release 1 on a CRT and a camera pointed at the display. It must have taken six weeks to edit this now antique-looking video. We pressed it onto every Revit release disc we shipped. This video — and its original soundtrack — are what Matt is talking about that nearly got us tossed from the AIA convention in 2000 — Revit’s public launch event.

That’s the Revit I’m nostalgic for: the company that set the AEC industry on its ear — and didn’t give a damn how loud we were.

So, the watch — and the memories — will go back in the kitchen junk drawer in about a week. But I think I’ll find time to look at it every now and then. It was a good time…and a great company.


One response to “Revit and Building Information Modeling”

  1. Jim Balding Avatar

    wow… time flies. Alex, it is good to hear your “voice” again. I was looking into the history of Revit today as the launch event will have been 21 years ago on Monday (5 April 2021). I like to say Revit will be able to have a real drink now! FWIW, I still have my watch too! I am no longer doing the tech consulting, back to being an Architect with my own shop *using and abusing* Revit for my projects. Steve Stafford works with me on occasion and I spoke with Phil Read this morning to shoot the breeze. You are correct, great times and GREAT PEOPLE!!!

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