Working with a “glorified etch-a-sketch” – Transportation Manager Ronald McDonald talks about solving MicroStation problems at the Alabama Department of Transportation.

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  • Montgomery, Alabama, USA — Transportation Manager Ronald McDonald has been with the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) since it was known as the “Highway Department.” He has also been using MicroStation since it was Intergraph IGDS. He gave us some tips on making MicroStation work easier.

    Ronald McDonald — mild-mannered CAD manager by day, but on Halloween… “biker dad.”

    MST: What are some of the problems you encounter in your position at ALDOT?
    Ron: The usual problems in a government position of keeping the users happy and functional and also keeping management happy and assuring them that the tax dollars we spend are put to good use. I hold the position of Transportation Manager but the working title is listed as “Design Bureau Systems Manager”. The Design Bureau has the largest single user base for CAD applications in ALDOT. My support team tries to keep everything in the Bureau running smoothly. And that includes all our applications, not just CAD. Sometimes it stretches my team a bit thin to try to keep up with so much.
    In earlier days when I was more “hands-on” with CAD, FileFixer helped me tremendously in saving time on design file repairs. Now that EdG is a thing of the past, FileFixer is the only game in town for design file repair.

    MST: What is something you have learned about working with CAD at the DOT that could help other CAD users?
    Ron: One thing I have learned working at ALDOT has been the value of communication. [Communication] is a valuable asset anywhere you work, but especially in this arena. Too many times I learned about someone in the hinterland struggling with a CAD-related problem that had already been solved, or at least addressed, in the central office. Even within the same working sections, there have been times when better communication could have saved a lot of time.

    I have noticed that the best users are the ones who know that the computer is merely a tool. It is a “glorified etch-a-sketch” and if you can’t do it with a pencil and paper, then you don’t need to get upset when the computer application (whatever it is) gives you a wrong answer.

    Keeping a uniform platform structure definitely has been an improvement over having two or three to support. I have been working with IGDS since 1985. I started with early MicroStation versions in 1988. Trying to make MicroStation V2.x work on a CLIX workstation like IGDS did was a challenge. [Editor’s note: CLIX was a version of UNIX developed by Intergraph.] Then trying to get pc versions working at a similar level added to the challenge.

    MST: What do you predict will be the “next big thing” in CAD?
    Ron: I would predict that true 3D imaging such as holographs would be the next big thing in CAD. The mouse, keyboard and screen would be a thing of the past and the operator or designer would speak the model into existence and it would easily be converted into a viable design product, whatever it may be.

    MST: How did you get started with ALDOT?
    Ron: I started at what was then the Alabama Highway Department in June 1968, about four days out of Samson High School (in a small south Alabama town). I was on the engineering training program they had at that time. I worked three summers surveying with them. I changed majors while at Auburn University and I resigned from the training program. After graduation from Auburn in August 1972, the job market in my major (radio, TV and film) was a bit thin. I eventually went back to work with Highway, starting back at the bottom again in April 1973, and have been with them since then. So this June, I will celebrate a 40-year association with this department.

    MST: Thanks, Ron.

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