Twenty years ago, a program called 3D Studio DOS was released, one of the first affordable 3D modelling, rendering and animation system for the PC Now, after changing its moniker first to 3D Studio Max and now 3ds Max, the tool is still a lynchpin of 3D creativity.

Initially developed by the Yost Group for Autodesk, and later released by Kinetix and then Discreet, the first version -- 3D Studio DOS r1 -- shipped in October 1990, priced at a fraction of the cost of the dedicated workstations then required to create professional 3D animation.

Though largely superceded for visual effects work by Maya -- also now owned by Autodesk -- the software has since been used to help create Oscar-winning movies, video games and Emmy-winning television content. Notable entertainment projects include movies The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Hurt Locker; video games The Sims, World of Warcraft and Halo; and television content from the Dancing Baby featured on Ally McBeal to Oceanic flight 815’s crash onto the island in Lost.

The software has also proved popular with architects, engineers and designers. High-profile projects visualised with 3ds Max include One World Trade Center, the Dallas Cowboys stadium and the Las Vegas Sands Macau Hotel and Casino.

Autodesk has launched a 3ds Max microsite on its Area community site to kick off celebrations of the 20th anniversary. The site includes an interactive historical timeline, an image gallery showcasing 3ds Max art by users from around the world, a trivia game and a forum where users can post a wish for future versions of the software.