Reimagining the history of GIS

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Fifty years after the initial efforts that coalesced as geographic information system (GIS), it is possible to look back and ask whether the decisions made then are still viable. Those decisions were constrained by the computing environment of the time, which was extremely primitive compared to today’s. The Canada Geographic Information System is used to illustrate those decisions and their consequences. Today it is possible to imagine a very different birth of GIS, based on globes rather than maps, and with positional uncertainty and spatial resolution addressed at the outset using hierarchical data structures for the globe. These structures also have the advantages of a congruent geography operating at multiple scales. GIS today still reflects in part the constraints of computing in the mid 1960s.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of GIS
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • GIS history
  • digital globe
  • discrete global grid
  • hierarchical data structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Reimagining the history of GIS'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this