12 August 2010


MAPS. I confess -- I am a cartophile. I dig maps. Two of my favorite online map websites are Google Maps (two dimensional) and Google Earth (simulated three dimensional). Each is packed with features, and Google Earth in particular is a fascinating way to tour any spot on Earth. Both are free downloads, and very responsive if you have a high speed Internet connection.

Two of Google Earth's more ambitious features are described at Walking the Amazon. The first is an interactive climate map, allowing you to witness the effects of global temperature changes on sea levels and crop yields. The second depicts the height -- darker green indicates taller trees -- and density of the world's remaining forests. The images are both impressive and sobering, when you consider how much more of the planet's surface was forested a mere two hundred years ago. A sample of the map showing forests of the world appears above. A sample showing forests in the US appears below. If you already have Google Earth installed, links to both functions may be found in the Walking the Amazon article.

For those who prefer their maps in hard copy, RavenMaps offers for sale a variety of large topological maps of the world, the US, and individual US states. You can order the maps plain, or laminated. They are color-coded by elevation, and the craftsmanship is superb. A sample Raven map of the US appears below.

PCs. On this day in 1981, IBM introduced its first personal computer to home users. There had been a smattering of other PC brands and models before IBM's, but this was the computer which standardized the medium by sheer volume of sales, thus setting the stage for the advent of the Internet ten years later. By today's standards, that first IBM model 5150 was a toy -- it boasted a single five inch floppy disk or cassette drives, serial connection ports, and a 10-20 MB hard drive. I have several generations of PCs in storage, the oldest being not much more advanced than that first IBM PC. They were bulky, slow, and now seem antiquated, but in their day they were the cutting edge.

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