Applied Geography: Principles and Practice: An Introduction to Useful Research in Physical, Environmental and Human Geography

By Michael Pacione | Go to book overview

41

Cartography: from traditional to electronic and beyond

David Green and Stephen King


INTRODUCTION

Mapping is a fundamental geographical activity, and as both an academic and a practical subject cartography has a very long and very well-documented history (see any textbook on cartography, e.g. Keates 1973; Cuff and Mattson 1982; Dent 1985; Robinson et al. 1995; Jones 1997; Dorling and Fairbairn 1997; http://www.geosys.com/cgi-bin/genobject/cartography/tig.3eed/). A great deal of theoretical and practical research has been undertaken over the years in all areas of the subject, including work on map projections and coordinate systems, map design (e.g. use of colour, symbols, legibility and composition), visualisation and communication, cartograms, journalistic and propaganda maps, 3D terrain models, and generalisation, to mention but a few.

With the development of mainframe computers in the late 1950s and early 1960s, computer-assisted cartography (CAC) or mapping soon began to develop quite rapidly (see, for example, publications such as Peucker 1972; International Cartographic Association 1980; Taylor 1980; Monmonier 1982; and Carter 1984). However, until the late 1980s and early 1990s, CAC remained largely the province of the mainframe, and subsequently minicomputers, and the realm of the large institution and the computer specialist. This is despite the emergence of the early microcomputers e.g. the Apple II/IIE and Macintosh, the IBM PC, and others, e.g. BBC, Atari.

However, the continuing and very rapid evolution of both microcomputer hardware and software technology over the years has since permitted cartography to become another software application on the desktop computer system. In many ways, cartography has now become akin to everyday applications such as word processing, spreadsheets and databases, and one that no longer requires the expertise of the specialist cartographer. With the advent of increasingly user-friendly systems, it has been possible for more people to design, create and produce maps without the aid of a cartographer or indeed the requirement to possess any cartographic knowledge. Cartography has become a communication tool available to all, whether it is for drawing maps to illustrate a journal paper or book chapter, a screen map display on a public information system, or presentational purposes in a seminar.

As we move towards the millennium, it is becoming evident that the current and future computer technology available will provide even more new and exciting opportunities for both cartography and cartographers (Green 1994). The technology will enable a new form of cartography—one that is less of an electronic equivalent of the more traditional form of cartography (a problem that has tended to overshadow the visual and innovative potential of cartography in an electronic medium) —but more flexible in the way that it makes use of information technology to take the subject—both theory and practice—forward into a new era of

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