History of geospatial technology

At the GITA conference in March 2007, I put together a few slides talking about my personal perspective on the history of geospatial technology moving to the mainstream, which Geoff Zeiss talked about in his blog, kindly saying that he thought this was interesting. The list of bullets I put together was as follows:

  • Early 1980's - IBM GFIS stored data in its hierarchical database DL/1
  • ~1986 - IBM partner IFM releases Infoter, which stores spatial data in SQL/DS and DB2
  • ~1988 - IBM launched geoManager, which stores spatial data in SQL/DS and DB2
  • Late 1980's - Canadian company GeoVision develops VISION*, based on Oracle
  • 1991 - I wrote an article "Why use a standard RDBMS for GIS?"
  • 1991 - Smallworld GIS is released, introducing some radical new ideas which jump it ahead. Its proprietary language and database offer significant advantages at the time.
  • 1992 AM/FM conference: "1995: the year the GIS disappeared", by Doug Seaborn
  • 1995 - "Oracle multi-dimension" announced at the GIS 95 conference in Vancouver
  • 1996 - MapQuest is launched, the first online mapping site
  • Late 90's - geospatial technologies begin to transition to using mainstream software development languages
  • 1999 - Microsoft MapPoint released
  • Jan 2001 - Keyhole founded
  • Oct 2004 - Google buys Keyhole, which becomes Google Earth
  • 2005 - Google launches Google Maps; appearance of Ajax web technologies; Microsoft, Yahoo, others, get in on the act Nov
  • 2006 - Microsoft launches new 3D building models in Virtual Earth

Anyway, I thought I would write a bit more on some of the historical items over time.

To kick this off, I recently found a copy of the first significant article I had published regarding use of relational database technology for GIS, back in 1990 - it was entitled "Exploiting Relational Database Technology in GIS", and was published in Mapping Awareness magazine in the UK (and slightly modified versions subsequently appeared in various other publications). It is interesting how long this vision has taken to become reality, though we are finally there now in general (although there are still some who talk about these ideas as if they are new, even today). To read an HTML version of the article, look here, and for a PDF scan of the original magazine article (1.26MB), click here.

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