Prehistoric GIS

Little known fact: prior to the Computer Age brains had to serve as our GIS and cartographic outputs were penned. In this collection we have thousands of historic maps and plats. For the most part they are boundary and topographic surveys at large scales (high detail, small area for those that have forgotten). Not to detract from the amount of work that went into these project, but they cannot compete with the complexity of most geoprocesses used in a quality geographic information system. That is why today I would like to present to you what I am calling ‘the oldest application of GIS that I’ve seen in person.’ In 1896, William Harrison created a map that assessed trade routes and determined on a matter of weight and distance the best route for trade. He also provides a highly detailed explanation of the methods behind his geoprocessing to validate the product through repeatability. The amount of work that it would have taken to produce this geo-product by hand is unimaginable in today’s age of computers and technology. Reflecting on historical methodology, it’s hard not to appreciate the tools at our disposal today.