7. Problems of Realizing Ideals with Computer Systems

Mapping software provides cartographers with the same sorts of advantages that text-processing software offers writers. Computers assist cartographers with the accurate drafting that has traditionally required tremendous manual skill, patience, and training. They also make it far easier to revise maps, to experiment with layout, composition, and symbolization, and to duplicate information from one map to another when producing series of maps. Still, the effective use of automated systems requires that the cartographer be just as familiar with the strengths and limitations of each automated system as with principles of effective cartography. The point is that computers can be used to produce poor maps as readily as good maps and the responsibility to know the difference rests with the cartographer. Perhaps the thought to keep in mind is that computers don't make good or bad maps, cartographers do.

 In turning to the use of computer systems, one should consider a number of related issues:

7.1 Systems vary greatly in their strengths and weaknesses: Be aware of both

7.2 Consider availability of needed functions and ease of use

7.3 Be aware of the problems of designing for particular output devices

7.4 Experimentation and multiple iterations are often required

7.5 Never trust defaults

Additional discusion of many of these points is included in an article by Kenneth E. Foote, 1992. Mapping the past: A survey of microcomputer cartography. Historical Methods 25: 121-131.

 Go on to Into the Future

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