Industry Mourns Loss of Hurwitz, Early Software Pioneer
Camilla Hurwitz, who passed away April 30 at age 87, pioneered the industry’s dominant software package, and set the standard for truss plant software that followed. With her husband, Dan, they founded On Line Data, and attracted the top component plants as customers. Few knew, however, Camilla’s amazing life’s story – here is how her son, Mark, characterized it:
Our mom experienced quite a life. Her father died while her mother was pregnant, so her immediate family consisted of only her brother and her mom. She was born in 1936 and lived in Italy through WWII. She told us that food was so scarce that neighborhood cats sometimes disappeared. After the war, her mother and aunt worked as translators for the Allied government, then moved the entire family - cousins and all - to St. Louis, Missouri. She attended Catholic schools through college, then earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from Washington University. She met our father while she was in graduate school, and joined him in his business, writing software to facilitate the design and fabrication of roof trusses. They started their own business based on this software in the early 1970s and were pioneers in the application of computers to the construction industry. She was extraordinarily loving and generous toward all in her family, which at the time of her passing consisted of three children, nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Dan Hurwitz started Wood Tech in the early 1960s, a truss plant in suburban St. Louis, where Camilla joined him. Camilla’s work attracted the interest of the Clary Corporation, who planned to offer cutting software as an add-on to their component saw sales. Clary hired them and moved them to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but after a short time, Dan and Camilla went out on their own to start On-Line Data. After 3 decades serving many hundreds of component manufacturers, the Hurwitz’s sold On-Line Data to Robbins Engineering who subsequently sold to MiTek in 2006.
On-Line devised an ingenious method to describe cutting for any planar truss design, and later enhanced it with a graphical interface called Sketch Pad. This “cut-anything” tool empowered a whole generation of truss designers and vastly expanded the reach of plated wood trusses, thanks to Camilla’s very early software and entrepreneurial leadership.