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Careers as Accidents. How two minor events began then shaped my GIS career.

1.

In 1993 I was at a loose end. I had recently disgraced myself in the acadmeic minor leagues by taking a perfectly sensible regional development thesis topic, and ruining it, eventually submitting a short essay on how I felt about space.

I took a job in Local Government ("Manukau City, the face of the future") working on transportation modelling.

One day, I saw someone walking through the carpark with an A1 sheet of acetate, with a map on it. I knew immediately what their evil purpose was. Anyone with any GIS experience would have. What made their intention to spend an afternoon doing overlays by eye more absurd was that the City had just purchased a new ArcInfo GIS at not inconsiderable expense. "Umm hello" I said...

Somehow this turned into me wangling a job in the GIS department.It was a cool job; "GIS Special Projects Leader". I got to have fun while everyone else did the hard work.

I was *supposed* to "take GIS to the next level by introducing ANALYSIS", but that didn't quite work out either...

2.

A year or so later I was driving to work and the traffic was gridlocked. I cannot bear to queue so in these cases I implement a strict "turn before queue" policy. This never gets me where I am trying to go, but at least I am moving. I ended up near an "area office" so I decided to go and well, visit some users and see how they were getting on with ArcInfo.

I fronted up at the public counter and asked someone for a map of my address. What they did surprised me. Each office had an ArcInfo terminal, running a user friendly "public counter" application. Some bright people had ealier built what they called a "backplot". From the (green screen) "rating system" users could type PLOT. A string with some keys got send down a print queue to a machine running a single waiting ArcInfo session. The user I met did NOT use the ArcInfo terminal, she just went to the rating system, queried the property and typed PLOT. A minute later a plot appeared on a nearby printer.

"Umm I have heard that you have an ArcInfo terminal, in fact that might be it right there" I said. "Why don't you use that?"

"Oh it's far too complicated" I was told. "We never use it".

The entire organisation had about five of these shrine like ArcInfo terminals. You had to get up and walk to them. This backplot system had no GUI, and could not return a map to your desktop. You still had to walk to the nearest printer -but it was SIMPLE, and available EVERYWHERE.

That "backplot" ArcInfo license was working like ArcIMS does today. There was no internet yet, but it was multiplexing discrete (ie "stateless") requests.

ANALYSIS? FORGET ANALYSIS. WE NEED A WAY TO PUT **SIMPLE** GIS FUNCTIONALITY ON EVERY DESKTOP

I have essentially been working on this problem ever since. Here is a history of my attempts.



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