ESRI UC 2000: On the Scene at ESRI UC

By Bill Huber

The ESRI User Conference opened today with 10,000 in attendance.Following the laws of thermodynamics, however, the attendees by mid-afternoon had spread to the maximum extent possible throughout the cavernous San Diego Convention Center.There were plenty of empty seats for latecomers to the plenary session.

The competition for our attention? A cup of coffee with old friends, a walk in the cool mid-afternoon breeze, a quick stroll through the ESRI store perhaps.

Jack Dangermond, founder and CEO of ESRI, turned the session over to a sequence of "friends" extolling the uses and wonders of it is wonderful: a circle of geography data providers, linked by the internet, tightly coupled (or so it seemed) with the new ArcInfo.

Need some data for your GIS project? Pull down the menu, point to the Geography Network, tell it what you want, then watch it get tucked right in with your other themes-dynamically projected and datum shifted (something ArcView never could do).Jack is excited.The audience claps.

But did they really have to stick a gaggle of seventh graders up there to tell us "the best part of the conference is ArcInfo 8.1"? The audience claps even louder.

Evening brings on the Map Gallery, an annual exposition of cartographic pyrotechnics produced by ESRI software.Fireworks, although they are fundamentally the same year after year, somehow manage to entertain us every time.So it is with maps to this group.We delight in detail, bask in the glow of four-foot color graphics, and revel in the theme and variations of multiple maps.Jack walks by, turning around and around, trying to take it in.

ESRI has mounted an exhibit of the "History of GIS." Part of it is a frank "History of ESRI." 1969.A man, a wife, a garage (not shown), and $1000. Two business engagements documented during the first three years.A mid-70's manual for the "Grid" software.Typewritten sheaves, letters partially smudged, passing off as user manuals as recently as 1986.You have to admire the vision and dedication.I wonder: what technology, what vision today will be the GIS of 2030?

I sit down with people, one at a time, for extended hors d'oeuvres.(We will soon tire of this fare, but not yet; it's only the first day.) Why are you here, I ask? Every one wants to know what's really going to happen to ArcView.Maybe tomorrow there will be answers.

--William Huber
San Diego, June 26, 2000.

Published Tuesday, June 27th, 2000

Written by Bill Huber

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