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P-CAD was the brand name created by Personal CAD Systems, Inc., a company founded in 1982 in Los Gatos, California, by Richard Nedbal (CEO) and Roy Prasad (VP of Engineering). Both were former executives of American Microsystems, Inc. (AMI), a custom semiconductor company based in Santa Clara, California. Also, part of the founding team were Gregory Houston, VP Marketing, a former Calma executive, and Chi-Song Horng, Director of software engineering (later promoted as a Vice President), a former AMI software engineering manager.
P-CAD was a play on personal computers, which were just becoming popular, following the launch of the IBM PC. The vision of the company was to disrupt the existing hegemony of $250,000 CAD systems based on mainframe computers and custom workstations, and make electronic CAD available to the masses at a cost under $10,000.
The startup originally raised US$500,000 from CrossPoint Venture Partners, and US$3,000,000 in a second round from New Enterprise Associates and Robertson, Coleman and Stephens. The board of directors included John Mumford (Crosspoint), Dick Kramlich (NEA) and Sy Kaufman (Robertson, et al.).
P-CAD went on to become the company with the biggest installed base of users of Electronic Design Automation (EDA), with over 10,000 users by 1988. At that time, P-CAD was the most prolific EDA company as measured by its user base, easily surpassing established CAD companies such as Autotrol, Calma, Intergraph, Daisy, Mentor, Cadnetix, CAE Systems, ECAD, SDA Systems, etc. At that time, Cadence was just being formed with the merger of ECAD and SGA, and Synopsys was being founded as a new start up.
P-CAD's flagship products included schematic capture, logic simulation and PCB layout. Its single biggest customer was Texas Instruments. Other customers included most of the top electronic companies in the U.S., Europe and Japan. P-CAD also signed up IBM as a distribution partner, especially for Japan. Some of the key later additions to the P-CAD team who were instrumental in building up the company include former IBM and Xerox executive Jim Dick, former Apollo Computer VP, Mike Lack, former Apollo Computer Western Regional Sales Manager, Arthur Clark, and EDA industry veteran Ellis Smith, who managed P-CAD's Asia business. Key engineering managers included Bob Dean, Bill Newhard, Howard Schutzman, Alvin Hung, Felix Ruslim, Ron Rinaldi and Mark Houde. Key marketing/sales managers included Kirk Shorte, Steve Mayer, Bruce Fihe, Kathy Eggiman, Elizabeth Dessuge, Ken Lowe, Susan Scal, Donna Licot, Shahriar Emami, and John Roth, who as Director of Sales, was instrumental in bringing the first $5 million of sales into the company.
In 1990, P-CAD was acquired by Cadam, which was a subsidiary of IBM, but was in the process of being sold to Lockheed. At the time of acquisition, P-CAD had an installed base of over 100,000 end users, a record at that time. In those days, such a large user base was unheard of in the EDA industry.
A few years later, the P-CAD group was divested by selling to Accel Technologies, an EDA software corporation from San Diego, California, which was acquired by Altium (then Protel International Pty. Ltd.) in 2000. The P-CAD product included schematic capture, component library management, PCB layout and routing, parametric constraint solver and auto-routing capability.
The last version of P-CAD was P-CAD 2006 with Service Pack 2, released in 2006. This was the last release made by Altium, who retired the product in favor of Altium Designer. This was the final outcome that was originally expected at the time of the merger of Protel with Accel — that the best features of both product lines would eventually be combined.