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"Silicon Surf - has the Sand hit the Fan ?"

Micky Allen

An updated copy of the paper together with

Presentation Outline

Slide sequence

Slide 1 -   The Internet - is it "just a toy"
Slide 2 -   History of the Internet
Slide 3 -   What's on the Internet
Slide 4 -   Main services available on the Internet
Slide 5 -   Electronic mail
Slide 6 -   Newsgroups / Mailing Lists
Slide 7 -   The World Wide Web
Slide 8 -   Sources of GIS information on the Internet
Slide 9 -   Locating information without using the WWW
Slide 10 - GIS Mailing Lists / Newsgroups on the Internet
Slide 11 - Realtime GIS on the Internet
Slide 12 - City of Houston real-time Traffic guide / traffic.html
Slide 13 - The AGI Website
Slide 14 - The AGI Environmental SIG pages
Slide 15 - Conclusion

The Internet - is it "just a toy"

  • Pornography - WH Smith

  • Bomb making - Budapest

  • Microsoft - Windows '97

  • Based on ASCII - data is portable

  • Platform independent

History of the Internet

  • Set up in the 1970's - military communications network

  • In the mid 1980's - few thousand users of the Internet.

  • December 1990 - invention of the World Wide Web.

  • Until the mid 90's - used mainly by Universities

  • Now Commercial - growing at around 10% per month.

  • In 1996 - an estimated 32 million users online,

What's on the Internet

  • The Internet is in a state of flux

  • Consists of various tools and services

  • Migration from academia - needed utility and speed

  • Now mainly commercial users - "point and click"

  • WWW booming - easy to use front-end to the Internet

Main services available on the Internet

  1. FTP (file transfer)
  2. Telnet (remote login)
  3. Gopher (heirarchical searching)
  4. Email (electronic mail)
  5. Newsgroups (interactive discussion groups)
  6. World Wide Web (WWW or "the Web")

The last three (items 4,5,6) now the most used by "surfers" on the Internet

Electronic mail

  • It is cheap - local phone call


  • It is electronic - can "cut and paste" text


  • Can transfer binary files - images, spreadsheets etc


  • Does not need an instant response

Newsgroups / Mailing Lists

Usenet/Newsgroup - "bulletin board"

Mailing List - "letters to the editor"

  • Tightly focused - niche publications

  • Usually free

  • Subscription process - usually automated

  • Back copies - usually archived

The World Wide Web

Simple mark-up language (HTML) used to lay-out pages

Huge database of interconnected webpages

Webpage - collection of hyperlinks set within a page of text and graphics

Pages with images can often be very slow to download!

Dial-up users often browse the Web with images turned off

Netscape (80% of Market) - "Plug-ins" (Shockwave, VRML, Real Audio)

Browser compatability - HTML-1, HTML-2, HTML-3, (blink), (center)


Sources of GIS information on the Internet

WWW - like gigantic on-line library, but index catalogue out of date!

Various search "engines" catalogue webpages - Two main types

a) Human intervention e.g. Yahoo!
b) Robotic web crawlers e.g. AltaVista

Yahoo -uses team of reviewers to classify site

AltaVista - sends out a robot to sequentially work through the Internet

  • Both services free - make their money by charging for advertising


    Locating information without using the WWW


    • Newsgroups - follow "threads" (needs dedicated software)

    • Mailing Lists -either moderated or unmoderated (uses simple email)

    Newsgroup often has corresponding Mailing List

    e.g. main GIS newsgroup called "comp.infosystems.gis" -
    corresponding mailing list called

    GIS Mailing Lists / Newsgroups on the Internet


  • Coastal GIS

  • Biological Conservation and GIS

  • ESRI products

  • Job vacancies in the GIS field

  • Idrisi support

  • etc, etc

  • More detailed listing at


    Realtime GIS on the Internet


    "Screencams" - live camera feed over the Internet

  • Coffee machine
  • Field of Cows
  • Real time GIS - processed data accessed using simple web browser

  • Friends of the Earth - HMIP Chemical Release Inventory data
  • Edinburgh University - Earthquake data from the USGS
  • The City of Houston - Traffic flow map of the city
  • Vauxhall Trafficmaster - uses "Shockwave", needs Netscape 2


    The AGI Website


    Hosted at Edinburgh University - on display here at AGI-96

  • Information about the AGI
  • Various links to other GIS sites
  • Online GIS dictionary
  • AGI -96 Conference Information
  • Sections for the various SIG's
    1. Marine & Coastal Zone Management SIG
    2. GIS in Healthcare SIG
    3. Environmental SIG
    4. Business SIG
    5. Survey & Mapping SIG

    The AGI Environmental SIG pages


    Mailing list - fairly easy to setup (low cost software)

    Software can automate many tasks

    But human intervention needed - deal with subscribers problems


    Easiest option - set up SIG discussion group via the medium of Webpages

    Environmental SIG pages

  • SIG members questionnaire (Full version on
  • List of committee members
  • Present and future activities




    Internet will dramatically alter the way we work

    Automates tasks - will affect semi-skilled clerical workers

    Vast opportunities to provide GIS services that now are too expensive

    $64,000 question - how will people make money from it ?

    Redefinition of the term GIS -

  • Take photos of your front door every 5 minutes
  • Transmit them to Australia
  • Someone sits and monitors it with Netscape
  • Rings the police to say you are being burgled!
  • Cost - a local phone call, and a digital camera

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    [Page created: 26rd Sep 96, Last Update: 19th Nov 97]
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