Computer architecture is a model used to explain how hardware and software are interconnected to form a system. It explains the structure of the system and how given elements are related to each other. According to Findley, this form of architecture can be viewed as the process of developing a blueprint (65). For example, it is used to explain how input devices are connected to their output counterparts.
Computing in general can be traced back to the 1950’s. Computer applications have been used by mankind since their development. They are used in, among others, weather prediction and gaming. The programs have made life easier and more enjoyable than it was in the past. Such programs include the development of 3D motion images, which are applied in different architectural disciplines. In the near future, most aspects of the architectural field will be computerized. The computing industry is an important feature of the 21st century (Findley 98).
In the current paper, the author is going to look at the development and use of computer programs in architecture. A number of these programs will be analysed. The author will analyse this topic in a timeline fashion, starting from the 1970s to the present. In addition, the future of computer programs in architecture will be reviewed. The use and development of Computer Aided Designs (CADs) and Building Information Modelling (BIM) will be looked into in this paper.
The Use of Computer Programs in Architecture: A Historical Timeline
It is important to understand what a computer is all about before putting it into use. It is noted that architects use advanced software to design buildings and other structures (Findley 51). As such, knowledge about how a computer operates is an added advantage to these professionals. Just like most things in human society, computers have a history. The first designs made using these machines were 2D in nature. However, with advancements in technology, it is now possible to produce 3D models.
Some of the first computer applications used in architecture included the scientific calculator and the game pong. The programs were first developed on paper and later built physically on a processor. The first form of communication that was understood by the computer was the machine language. In the 1960’s, other simpler languages like FORTLAN were developed (Prensky 100). For a program to run on a computer, it has to be processed.
The programs used in architecture are no exception. In 1970, Intel built the first single microprocessor. It is noted that the speed of executing programs is tied to the strength of the processor. The Intel 404 microprocessor had a clock rate of 740 KHz. It processed data in 4 bits and was available in the market by 1971 (Prensky 101). Saving time in the execution of programs is advantageous to the end user. As such, the use of a fast computer enables the architect to take less time in designing a structure.
In 1972, the first successful commercial game was introduced (Helgesen 43). The game was referred to as pong, which was based on ping pong, a popular version of table tennis. It served as a platform for the development of multimillion dollar games. A look at these programs in the 21st century reveals that they have come a long way. Moving from graphics to reality, it is apparent that different companies, including those operating in the architecture industry, have perfected the art of gaming with the creation of 3D models (Helgesen 55).
Data stored in a computer may be required for use by a different party. For example, a group of architects working from different computers towards a common goal may need to exchange ideas. They can achieve this by accessing the data archived in the computers used by their colleagues (Smith and Nair 34).
Ethernet solved this problem by making it possible to create a connection between different computers (Smith and Nair 34). The program was developed in 1973. It made it possible to share information between different end users. With the use of a local area network (LAN), one can access data stored in other computers and printers in the same system.
The first computer that was based on parallel architecture was made in 1974 (Smith and Nair 37). Improved microprocessors, which operated at 2MHz, were designed. It is noted that the ideal computer is associated with low costs and maximised results. Power consumption was made more efficient with the use of the 2MHz processor than with other programs. The development was a significant event in architectural design.
The early computers were very big in size. However, this physical feature reduced as time went by. The first commercially viable hobby computer was introduced in 1975. In spite of the low processing power and memory, 200 units were sold in the first day (Hennessy 12). Later in the year, microcomputers were written and Microsoft was formed.
The company is one of the leading information technology organisations in the world. It designed the Microsoft Windows operating system and a number of games. With the help of this technology, the 6502 CPU was released (Hennessy 21). The CPU was very popular in gaming consoles. IBM followed suit and released the first personal computer with a keyboard, storage, and display unit. The programs were used extensively in architectural designs.
Soon after, Apple Inc. unveiled the Apple 1. The product was launched in 1976 (Hennessy 99). Architectural designs stored in the computer had to be printed. The need to print led to the creation of the first laser printer, which was not coloured. Intel went ahead and produced a better chip, which required less power to operate. Supercomputers were the only machines that made it possible for vector processing. Cray 1 was the first supercomputer.
It was designed by Seymour Cray after he left his formal job to form a company (Findley 45). After two years, Intel introduced the first x86 microprocessor. The program is still common in Instruction Set Architecture (ISA). A year later, the Compact Disc (CD) was invented (Smith and Nair 36). By 1980, a number of games were available and colour printing was possible. The soaring demand for personal computers led to mass production of these machines. Technology was improving and Apple Inc. successfully developed a mouse driven computer with a Graphical User Interface (GUI). In addition, high quality printers were been produced.
Technological developments made it possible for 3D games like Grand Theft Auto and Tomb Raider to run on computers. Later, gaming consoles like the PlayStation were invented. Microsoft was not left behind in the race to improve technology. The company came up with Xbox (Hofmeister and Nord 30). Gaming experience in these devices is better compared to laptops.
The 21st century saw the introduction of the first iPhone, Windows 7, PlayStation 3, Core 2 processors, Xbox 360, tablets, and Ubuntu Linux (Prensky 100). Computer storage is important in architectural modelling. In 2011, the first 4 terabyte hard drive was made available in the market. Microsoft Windows 8 was released in 2012. In 2013, Xbox 1 and PlayStation 4 were introduced (Scheer and Nuttgens 93). Operating systems with a friendly user interface are ideal to work with. The realisation led to the development of improved visual products for final presentation, which translates to building projects.
Computer Programming and Development of Software in Architecture
Programming is the root or core of all software. AutoCAD and TurboCAD are examples of such software used in building design. The process involves designing software that can help in problem solving. A programming language is used to code a program. A computer can only understand the machine language that is made up of binary numbers (Smith and Nair 38). The early programming languages were hard to write and understand since one had to use 0s and 1s. The process was hectic for architects wishing to use computer programs to design projects.
A code should be written using Integrated Development Environment (IDE). The integration of an interpreter into the IDE has made it possible for other higher, simpler, and better languages to be used. The interpreter converts the high level programming lingo into machine language for execution. A compiler is also present. It makes it possible to debug.
Computer programs are a set of instructions that tell the machine what to do (Smith and Nair 37). Depending on the problem at hand, a programmer formulates the steps for problem solving by developing an algorithm. In designing, the first stage, which involves analysis, should introduce the rules for the required algorithm. A functional computer application or software should be reliable, efficient, easy to use, portable, and easy to maintain. Such features make the work of the architecture easy.
An algorithm is a series of steps stipulating how a program will be executed. Computer experts designing programs for architects should develop algorithms that are easy to understand. Every application is generated from the source code. It is debugged, tested, and documented (Findley 33). The language used in coding is important since it affects the functionality of the overall software. High level languages make it possible to create 3D objects that are user friendly.
The software used in CAD has to go through the stages stipulated above. It helps in the development of effective programs for architects. Designers prefer using a program that saves time and money. BIM is a good example of this development. It makes the design process easy and possible to implement using CAD (Findley 45).
Computers in Architecture
A computer can be programmed to perform any task. Computer Aided Design programs are used by architects to develop their blueprints. In the past, these plans were drafted by hand. The introduction of CAD made things easy. Such effects as twisting, stretching, rotation, and movement are hard to achieve using bare hands. Another major advantage of using computers in architecture is the fact that it helps in designing 3D views (Helgesen 37). A 3D plan enables the architect to view the design from all angles. In some instances, CAD is also referred to as Computer-Aided Design & Drafting (CAAD).
A number of software and applications are used in CAD. They include, among others, AutoCAD, TurboCAD, and Vectorworks. The use of this program makes it possible to achieve independent results in designing. No human intervention is needed between data input and generation of results. According to Helgesen, “the (purpose) of these applications is to create plans and construct drawings” (p. 42). Different people have varying tastes. Computer programs help the architect to meet the needs of all the stakeholders. The applications enhance the creativity of the designer.
With technological innovations, architects are moving from CAD to BIM. The latter provides the building professional with an enhanced platform for design. In addition, the use of electronic design programs helps to save time, money, and other resources. Professionals who have used the new technology report that the quality of their work is high. The program reduces redundancy and possibilities of generating erroneous and misleading results (Prensky 99).
Like other programs, BIM is associated with a number of risks. The architects should put these threats into consideration when using the program. Unnecessary upgrades should be avoided (Prensky 99).
Computer Programs in Architecture: The Design Process
Architectural designs undergo five major stages. The first phase, which involves system design and analysis, is very crucial to the success of the whole process. In this stage, the problem is broken down into small and manageable tasks. After collecting the relevant information, the problems are then analysed (Helgesen 88). At this level, every problem is in sketch form.
The second part involves the development of ways to come up with solutions according to the preferred design (Findley 45). The third stage is evaluation or appraisal. The possible solutions are tested and evaluated on the basis of the design objectives. The final solution is selected at the appraisal stage. If by any chance all the answers to the problem are similar, elements of the successful parts are picked and evaluated. All this takes place at the fourth stage.
Finally, there is presentation. Presenting a solution can be tricky since people are not willing to take chances with things that they are not sure of (Scheer and Nuttgens 73). The process should be used to explain everything in simple terms. Instructions on how to use or handle the product and copyrights are part of the presentation.
In relation to building and construction, the design process can be viewed as the life cycle of the structure. Scheer and Nuttgens assert that “the first and last stages (of design) are very crucial (to the project)” (p. 71). A competent architect should be able to produce a set of data that is visually appealing. It is this presentation that determines whether or not the client is impressed by the design. After everything is finalised, preparations to start building are made.
Construction time depends on the type and size of the building. Logically, smaller designs take little time compared to complex ones (Prensky 100). The entire process highlighted in this section can be achieved with the help of computer programs.
Computer Applications in Architecture and Microsoft Games: A Comparative Analysis
Animations are commonly used in the gaming industry. Just like in process of designing buildings, these animations are generated with the use of computers. However, these programs are more complex than those used in building and construction. The reason is that animations should have motion (Prensky 104). Games need rules, strategies, and tactics. A gaming application is closely related to a program. Designers of a given game should take into consideration the rules and regulations associated with the same. The case is different in architectural designs.
However, it is important to note that designing a house using a computer is like playing a game. The system design and analysis stage determines the rules of the building ‘game’. The architect tells the computer what to do and it provides them with feedback depending on how it is programmed. According to Prensky, games have come a long way (39). Highly advanced gaming programs are released daily. Similarly, the architectural industry is growing, making it easy to design a building.
The Future of Computer Programs in Architecture
In the near future, every aspect of human life will be affected by computer technology. The machines have played a major role in development. Computers should be viewed as machines that imitate what is known by humans. At the same time, the technology is used to explore the unknown. As Hofmeister and Nord put it, software design reflects what people think (63). Programs like CAD act like a human brain. The architect has to reason with them to solve a problem. As such, it is advisable to use highly advanced computing mechanisms to solve problems in the future. For example, CAD should be replaced with BIM.
Today, people have moved away from traditional computer systems, such as desktops and PCs, to new hybrids and highly complicated devices. The new technology is set to revolutionise the next generation of computer programs in architecture. Mobile phones, tablets, and phablets are some of the new devices that resemble computer systems, but which are targeted at medium and low end users (Hofmeister and Nord 83). The growth in programmable hardware will see the emergence of software as a major industry.
Today, the society is witnessing the adoption of hi-tech devices, such as smartphones, smartcards, and smart homes. The technology industry will thrive in the next decade.
New technologies in the architecture business, such as BIM, will be unveiled in the future. The problems encountered today in architectural designs, including performance limits and unmet expectations, will be overcome in the future. A look at the long journey taken by CAD shows that change can take place in ways that are unimaginable (Prensky 111).
Limitations of Computer Technology in Architecture
It is a fact that computer architecture is associated with a number of benefits. However, it also has some weaknesses. First, some people have no access to computer technology. The machines are relatively expensive. In addition, the use of technology is associated with a number of threats. Trojans, worms, and other viruses affect the computer and alter its normal way of functioning (Hennessy 84).
Programming helps in the creation of algorithms that can be used to solve problems. However, some people use their programming skills to exploit other vulnerable computers. Hackers stage malicious attacks on other computers and access personal information. Architects can lose designs stored in PCs this way. Simulating such attacks helps to detect and fix the weak points of an operating system. However, cyber crime remains a problem today (Findley 85).
Games are a form of entertainment. However, some people spend a lot of time on gaming programs. Such an indulgence reduces the usefulness of these programs in the society. In spite of this, it is important to note that games are not entirely negative. However, they are addictive and people should use them with care. 3D motions also bring about nausea, which affects the output of the architect using the program (Hofmeister and Nord 137).
Technology has led to the development of computer applications that make it easy to carry out daily activities. The scientific calculator and the game pong are some of the programs developed in the 1970s by information experts. Originally, pong was an exciting program. However, at some point, its popularity plummeted. Modern games like Grand Theft Auto, Football, and Tomb Raider have generated millions of dollars for the developers.
CAD is used to generate 3D building models. Technological developments have seen the introduction of BIM. Playing a computer game and designing a house are similar undertakings. As such, it is possible to come up with an application to solve different problems. Many elements of contemporary society are computerised.
Computers function in the same way as human brains. Life is characterised by intermittent challenges and victories. The same applies to the development and use of computer programs in architecture. Technological advancements improve the skills of the individual with regards to the use of computers. Architects can use these developments to improve their designs in the future.
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Scheer, August-Wilhelm, and Markus Nuttgens. ARIS Architecture and Reference Models for Business Process Management, Berlin: Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2000. Print.
Smith, James, and Ravi Nair. “The Architecture of Virtual Machines.” Computer 38.5 (2005): 32-38. Print.