Changing the Medium: The Potential of Pen-based Computers in Cartography

Michael P. Peterson

Department of Geography / Geology

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Omaha, Nebraska 68182-0199

Abstract: Pen-based, palm-top computers are being introduced for a variety of applications. These computers incorporate a stylus or pen and software for the recognition of hand-written, block-characters. A number of companies have introduced software that facilitates the updating of GIS attribute data in the field by simply writing onto the screen. A more general application for these computers is the interactive display of maps. Software is being introduced for this purpose. Apple Computer's Personal Data Assistant, expected in early 1993, will use a unique software framework that will make it possible to display of maps based on written instructions.

Computer technology has introduced a number of interactive and dynamic tools for geographic data query and display. While microcomputers have increased the access to this technology, the physical size of the hardware and the complexity of the software make these systems too cumbersome for general use. Pen-based computers overcome these limitations and make the technology accessible to a larger audience. These computers have the potential to change how spatial information is presented and how it is used, and perhaps ultimately change the human understanding of, and interaction with, the surrounding world.