4.0076 Maps (122)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Sat, 19 May 90 19:28:03 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0076. Saturday, 19 May 1990.

(1) Date: Fri, 18 May 90 11:31:30 EDT (25 lines)
From: DUSKNOX@IDBSU (Skip Knox)
Subject: Electronic Atlas

(2) Date: Fri, 18 May 90 11:36:10 EDT (26 lines)
From: elli%ikaros@husc6.BITNET (Elli Mylonas)
Subject: Electronic Atlas

(3) Date: Sat, 19 May 90 12:35:54 EDT (71 lines)
From: TEBRAKE@MAINE (William H. TeBrake)
Subject: computer maps

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 18 May 90 11:31:30 EDT
From: DUSKNOX@IDBSU (Skip Knox)
Subject: Electronic Atlas

The messages about the availability of computer maps are correct but
don't tell the whole story. Yes there are collections of maps available
(the ones that are free are generally not as good, but there are some
commercial ones that are stinkers, too), but not one fits the needs of a

Many collections, for example, show political boundaries but not
geographical features such as rivers. The better ones do, and the best
ones treat the geographical features as objects separate from political
boundaries and thus can be removed and added at will. All collections,
of course, show _modern_ political boundaries, which is not much use to
a European historian. This is why the best deal is a draw program that
sells a supplemental library of clip art (I like Arts & Letters). But
it's still many, many hours of adding handles and stretching or removing
boundaries to make a map of 13thc France. And for real fun, try the
Holy Roman Empire!

Vector format is generally preferrable to paint, but even here problems
arise. Take shading, for example. It's easy enough to shade the
interior of an object, but very tedious to shade just portions of
objects. With a paint program, it's not hard to indicate the progress
of the Black Death across Europe. With a draw program that same map is
extremely difficult.

I have argued for some time that one reason humanists lag behind the
scientists in the use of computers, both in teaching and research, is
that what we do is so much more sophisticated that what scientists do.
Historical maps are another case in point. All scientists and social
scientists want to do is to display numbers graphically over a map.
Historians, on the other hand, need to be able to do actual cartography.
As yet I've found no product that meets the need satisfactorily.

Skip Knox
Microcomputer Coordinator (cum) Medieval Historian
Boise State University
Boise, Idaho

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 18 May 90 11:36:10 EDT
From: elli%ikaros@husc6.BITNET (Elli Mylonas)
Subject: Electronic Atlas

There is a program from Strategic Mapping called Atlas*Mapmaker It runs
on all Macs with 512K or more. This provides Map outlines of the US and
the world along with tools for editing the maps. It also comes with a
data analysis system, so one can add informatin to a chunk of a map.
You can see that what the creators had in mind was a tool businesses
which want to track their sales, etc over a geographical area. Data can
be associated with regions or points. The program comes with boundary
files of the US by state and by county, with cities. It also has Canada
by province and the rest of the world by country with capitol cities.
There are some data files as well containing things like census and
population data.

It is possible to buy other boundary and data files, but they are even
more centered on the US, showing information like locations of major
shopping areas, and congressional districts.

I haven't used this program yet, but it seems to be the best available on
the Mac. It apparently also exists on the PC with name of
Atlas*Graphics. It costs about $290 from reputable mail-order houses.

--Elli Mylonas, Managing Editor, Perseus Project
Harvard University
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------175---
Date: Sat, 19 May 90 12:35:54 EDT
From: TEBRAKE@MAINE (William H. TeBrake)
Subject: computer maps

I recently spent considerable time looking for an inexpensive yet
versatile piece of software that might be used to make maps on an IBM
compatible. It occurs to me that my experience may be useful to whoever
first raised the question.

My initial inquiries lead me to several people at the University of
Maine involved in Geographic Information System (GIS) research. Though
they taught me much about GIS research and about GIS packages designed
for PCs, I decided in the end that was not what I needed. As a medieval
historian I needed to have a draughting facility that would allow me to
draw maps for which there is no mountain of digital information
available and that paid absolutely no attention to modern political
divisions: case in point, the county of Flanders in the early 14th
century (today split between the states of France, Belgium, and the
Netherlands). For some applications, a paint program may well be worth
consideration. In the end, however, I decided that a Computer Assisted
Design (CAD) package was what I needed, specifically because it allows
one to draw descrete objects (stored as vectors and thus independent of
screen resolution) and to scale and combine objects in the final product
(paint programs, as I understand it, have less facility to do so).

A number of reviews appeared in _Professional Geographer_ in recent
years that provided the information I needed. I learned about AutoCAD
(ca. $3,000) and its student version, AutoSketch ($99) -- both reviewed
August 1989 -- as well as others. I decided to buy TurboCAD by IMSI and
Pink Software ($99) because of a review in the May 1989 issue -- it
allows 128 layers, five text fonts, many line thicknesses,
cross-hatching; supports many digitizers, plotters, and dot-matrix
printers; and runs on both my EGA screen at the University and on my
Hercules monochrome at home. I was able to buy it through mail order
from CAD and Graphics (San Francisco, 800-288-1611) for $69.95.

I have not been disappointed by TurboCAD thus far. The biggest problem
is to construct the base maps. Doubtless a digitizing tablet would be
most efficient for this, but I have had reasonable success with the
following: I make a transparency of the map I want to produce; tape the
transparency to my monitor; and outline it (the drawback is that the
program stores everything in exact deminsions and angles that work
independently of the screen's aspect ratio -- I had to fiddle a bit with
the printed output to get the same x-y ratios as I developed on my
screen). It also reads .DXF files (AutoCAD) as well as Hewlett Packard
HP7475A plotter files (HPGL). This last could be useful for those who
want to use already-existing boundary files. For example, the
Spring-Summer 1990 catalog from National Collegiate Software and Duke
University Press lists "Mapsets", p. 11: outline maps of the US, Europe,
and the world that can be plotted on an HP7475A -- it might be fairly
simple to capture the plotter data to a disk file and load the outline
maps in TurboCAD. One last suggestion: if you have either a 24-pin dot
matrix printer or a laser printer, order the F-Plot utility ($29.95 from
CAD and Graphics). The built-in printer driver in TurboCAD includes
9-pin printers and does only draft-quality printing (you would need to
use a plotter for publication quality, I think), but F-Plot produces
really nice quality on a 24-pin Panasonic 1124; I can only guess that
laser output would be better yet.

I am sorry that this began to sound a bit like a commercial. I am
simply pleased that I was able to find something as versatile and
affordable as I found. I have seen the same product offered by a number
of vendors in _Computer Shopper_. If you decide to try another package,
my advice is to buy a CAD product (stores info in vectors and not screen
bits) that allows variable line thicknesses and type, cross-hatching,
multiple layers, a selection of text fonts, and access to plotters,
printers, digitizers, and other file formats. I hope whoever first
posted the query about computer maps finds this useful. Because I saw
the query on both HISTORY and HUMANIST, I have sent this to both.

William H. TeBrake, History, U. of Maine, Orono, Maine, USA