GIS 2000: A Brief Look Backwards

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GIS continues to experience momentous growth and has been strengthening its role as a “must-have” tool for many fields. 2001 promises to be yet another year of exciting advances in GIS. Field GIS and Internet mapping continue to decentralize GIS and to introduce this technology to the common user. While anticipating the events of 2001, this article takes a brief look at some of the notable events of last year.

There were a few GIS based web sites that made their debut this year. The former About GIS site (now the GIS Lounge site), went live this past May. ESRI unveiled two web sites gis.com and The Geography Network at their annual Users Conference in June. The focus of the Geography Network is to promote the exchange of data through a centralized warehouse. Other GIS sites of note that were unveiled in 2000 are GIS Development and GISMalaysia. GIS Development is based in India and has an extensive collection of GIS information with a focus on Indian affairs. GISMalaysia likewise is geared towards catering to GIS Professionals in Malaysia with information about jobs, data and more.

ESRI had a momentous year with the unveiling of two websites mentioned above as well as a restructuring of their business model. The first was the long awaited ArcGIS concept, which provides a unification of the ESRI product line. Included in this was an overhaul of their biggest and most powerful product, ArcInfo 8x. ArcInfo 8x was built using the same COM (Component Object Model) components. ESRI also switched focus in the release of ArcIMS, an out of the box web GIS application that allows immediate set up and publication of GIS data through a browser. At the same time, ArcIMS takes advantage of current IT skills by utilizing universal web languages such as XML, ASP and Java. For the whole ESRI software suite, this was a step away from the proprietary languages (AML, Avenue, MapObjects) that hindered many IT professionals from migrating smoothly to an ESRI-based application environment.

The second annual GIS Day was held November 15th. GIS Day falls at the end of Geography Week each year. This past year, over 2000 events were held in over 81 countries with the aim to bring the knowledge of GIS to everyone. Based on estimates from the GIS Day site, over 850,000 children and 690,000 adults were reached this year.

At midnight on May 1st, Selective Availability was lifted. This meant that the tedious task of differential correction was no longer need on GPS files. During the era of Selective Availability, points collected via GPS units were routinely thrown off up to 100 meters from their true points. This is welcome news with the use of GPS rapidly growing into many commercial and personal areas. GPS powered navigation systems are becoming common add-ons in many car makes.

GIS went mainstream in the United States in October with the premiere of CBS’ “The District.” In this weekly cop series, the fictional Chief of Police helps reduce crime in Washington D.C. with the use of GIS. Those who use ArcView are treated to weekly glimpsing of this program in action. The show touts COMSTAT, a real-life crime program, which was first created by the New York City Police and Transit Authority to help cut crime.


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