Skip to main content


The technological advancements made in hardware and software development over the past few years have been phenomenal. The distinction between personal computer and workstation, a mainstay during the 1980's has become very fuzzy. Recent developments within the micro-chip industry, e.g. the Pentium chip, have made the micro-computer a viable and promising tool for the processing of spatial data. Most notable of these is the emergence of 32-bit Pentium chip micro-computers and the use of the Windows NT operating environment.

Several trends in hardware and software development for GIS technology stand out. These are reviewed below:

The dominant hardware system architecture for GIS systems during the 1980's was the centralized multi-user host network. The distributed network architecture, utilizing UNIX based servers, and desktop workstations, has been the norm over the past five years.;
The trend in disk storage is towards greatly increased storage sizes for micro-computers, e.g. PC's and workstations, at a lower cost;
The emergence of relatively low cost reliable raster output devices, in particular inexpensive ink jet based plotters, has replaced the more expensive color electrostatic as the ad hoc standard plotting device for GIS.;
The emergence of fast, relatively inexpensive micro-computers with competitive CPU power, e.g. 32-bit Penitum has challenged the traditional UNIX stronghold of GIS.;
While the de facto operating system standard has been UNIX , the Windows NT operating system is emerging as a serious and robust alternative. This is especially prevalent with organizations wishing to integrate their office computing environment with their GIS environment. This trend is closely associated with the development of 32-bit micro-computers.;
SQL (Standard Query Language) has become the standard interface for all relational DBMS;
The ability to customize user interfaces and functionality through Application Programming Interfaces (API) and macro languages. The major development in GIS technology over the past five years has been the ability to customize the GIS for specific needs. Application development is a mandatory requirement for all GIS sites, and should be weighted accordingly when considering a GIS acquisition.