Years ago, I was teaching a workshop on advanced SketchUp techniques to a group of extremely bright middle and high school (or so I thought) students in Hot Springs, Arkansas. As subject matter went, I wasn’t pulling any punches — we were breezing through material I wouldn’t think of introducing to most groups of adults. At one point, a boy raised his hand to ask a question, and I noticed he looked younger than most of the others. Squinting, I read a logo on his T-shirt that told me he was in elementary school. “You’re in sixth grade?” I asked, a little stunned. These kids were motoring, after all. The boy didn’t even look up. He shook his head, double-clicked something, and mumbled, “Third.” He was 8 years old.
SketchUp was invented in 1999 by a couple 3D industry veterans (or refugees, depending on your perspective) to make it easier for people to see their ideas in three dimensions. That was it, really — they just wanted to make a piece of software that anyone could use to build 3D models. What I saw in Arkansas makes me think they were successful.
Before SketchUp was acquired (for the first time, by Google) in 2006, it cost $495 a copy, and it was already a mainstay of architects’ and other designers’ software toolkits. No other 3D modeler was as easy to understand as SketchUp, meaning that even senior folks (many of whom thought their CD/DVD trays were cup holders) started learning to use it.
SketchUp spent six years as part of Google, picking up tens of millions ...