In early 1996 I had started my third year at Auckland University School of Architecture.
The previous year I had taken a design paper where upfront the lecturer has indicated that he was happy for us to use computers if we wished. I talked to him after our first studio and asked what he suggested, and he said I should visit the computer lab and ask about ArchiCAD.
I promptly visited and found out a little and got a manual and sat down and started having a play. I had always had an interest in computers and had first got a ZX81 in 1985 and then moved on/through to ZX Spectrum, VIC20, Commodore 64, Atari 1040 before my time at University.
I learnt enough ArchiCAD to complete all the drawings required for the design studio and passed the paper. I remember talking with my peers in the design paper when I first showed them a plotter output of a section through the Ground model I had made (lots and lots of ArchiCAD slabs). Someone asked (sceptically) “how long did that take you” I think I answered “around 3-4 hours” and their response was “I could have drawn it in less time” which I had to agree with, momentarily feeling a bubble burst, I then said “but I can now create 6 more sections with very little effort as the model is in 3d and I can cut a section wherever I want/need”
I then did a further elective studio to take the model through to a rendered stage and was happy to be rewarded with my only A+ for a Design Studio Paper. As this had been an elective studio my end of paper critique was grouped with a fifth-year studio. I remember Gareth Ross – a fifth year who had presented an amazing paper “house of a watch maker” – coming up to me afterwards and being amazed that I had done these computer renderings. It felt great especially having had a tough critique from one of the professors.
Anyway, back to 1996 I had started the year purchasing a computer for $4,500 (with a 17inch CRT monitor which was a significant factor in the cost). In order to buy this I had saved up and complemented my savings with a bank loan.
I visited the Computer Lab at school again and asked where I could purchase ArchiCAD and I was given Murrays name.
I went home and called up Murray and started talking about ArchiCAD and that I would like to buy a copy and enquired the cost. Murray responded with “eighty-nine, nighty” which I thought mean 90 bucks. Somehow, I realised Murray actually meant $8,990 which was absolutely shocking – I had never come across software that was $1,000 let alone almost nine thousand.
I explained to Murray – some way deflated – that having spent everything on my computer there was no way I could afforded to spend double again on ArchiCAD. We did however agree to meet. So, one Saturday afternoon I visited Murray who had moved to their second North Shore house/office on the edge of Lake Pupuke.
I showed Murray some of my work and talked about a few things. I can’t remember if it was at the meeting or subsequent to it, but Murray suggested that maybe I could be useful creating a newsletter for the ArchiCAD user group. I had done a lot of desktop publishing and this was a great opportunity to be involved – ArchiCAD 5 was around the corner and Murray agreed to let me have the use of a Not For Resale (NFR) ArchiCAD license – yay $9,000 saved and I could use ArchiCAD on my computer at home.