BSU: Before SketchUP there was ... Upfront



For many of us, before we used SketchUp we used Upfront. It’s come up in conversation in a couple threads, so I thought I’d start a new thread for it.

Here are some recently unearthed treasures from my clutter. Remember printed manuals? Remember VHS tapes? Remember when cool packaging was part of the product design?

Manual and enclosure:

VHS Tutorial Tape:

I just dubbed the VHS to DVD for fun. I could have this video with me at 3D Bootcamp.

Look What I Found

I only had a trial version. It was prohibitively expensive at the time, the equivalent of something like 3000 Euros today. It was fun but it crashed a lot. Tried it on a 386 if I remember right.


Nice! That reminds me of Ray Dream Designer…Not that I ever learned to use it as I was 11 or 12 years old when my dad got it and the old Mac Perfoma just couldn’t do all that much.


Whoa! A rocket powered rodent armed with ground to surface missiles. Not something I’d want to come across!


Wow, I remember this! I used to have to pretend I knew how to use this this software in training sessions along with infini-D.
I even had a Radius Rocket NuBus card in my Mac.


Me too. I probably still have it.


I’ll bet money the mouse was hand drawn…



Ha. I bet it is too. I got as far as making a sphere in RDD and I think changing the color before I quit…wouldn’t pick up trying 3D again for 13 years.


Lee Anderson, the original author of UpFront, is an old “Friend of SketchUp” who used to come to 3D Basecamp back in the day. He is an associate professor at the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota now, still working on cutting-edge computational design projects. UpFront was my introduction to CAD as a student at Cooper Union. In fact, I learned it before I learned Autocad.

In many ways, UpFront was ahead of its time. There were other 3D modeling applications available at the time (Virtus Walkthrough was another I remember using from that time), but UpFront had them all beat for doing architectural design.



WOW, what a history lesson!


I first learned of Upfront from David Stoval in Minnesota who either knew Lee or at least saw him demonstrate it in beta. David was among a group of us Mac CAD pioneers who found each other on GEnie (pre-internet), and he got us all to move over to beta test a new service called Apple Link Persomal Edition (aka ALPE). At the time, Apple Link was for developers, and this would be for consumers with a cute GUI and sounds. When the developers said they wanted to make it cross platform, Apple pulled out (I think) and they changed the name to America Online. So Dave’s screen name AFLDave for Apple Link Forum Leader didn’t have to change as it was now America Online Forum Leader. I always wondered if that affected the name choice. Anyway, it was thanks to these pre-internet services and SIGs that let me learn about what Lee was creating in another part of the world.

My brother in law got me beta testing Virtus Walkthrough. I remember it being unbearably slow.


There was also the Cyber Studio for the Atari 1040ST which became 3D Studio for DOS.


I’ll throw the wonderful and amazing Alias Sketch into the conversation.


Actually, that was an fantastic bit of software can’t believe I had forgotten about that - it was all NURBS based wasn’t it?


I had a copy of Alias Sketch as well. I’m almost sure to have manuals for that in a box somewhere. I never did much with Sketch, but Upfront I did quite a bit of work with.


I still have, somewhere, the original 8?(I think) floppy disks for Upfront. Loved it. Used it for early architecture works in the late 80-90’s, I think.


How about that. I just stumbled on this: the tutorial VHS tape for Alias Sketch.


Wow, so expensive… I bought it for $495 AUD in Chatswood on first sight…and then convinced my office to buy it of me…modeled many major Sydney projects with it… including entire Sydney CBD, harbour bridge, Opera House, Sydney Olympic stadium bid…must have been around 1994…
PS… I have the executables archived somewhere on my system… cant get them to run anymore though


I was about to post some UpFront examples and then 3D Basecamp happened. I nearly forgot, but here goes:

This is an UpFront model from 1997~1999 of a project with a hybrid timberframe made by Benson Woodworking (now called Bensonwood). Looks a lot like SketchUp, doesn’t it?

The project won an AIA/Connecticut Chapter Design Award in 1999.

I originally wanted to post a turntable movie of this, but the file was too big. I’ll have to find another way when I get the time.