Category: Uncategorized

Thanks for the memories, Terminal 1

One of my earliest memories as a child was flying, then still a little glamorous, to Belfast to see my mothers family. This I guess was in the mid 1970’s and was the first time I visited Heathrow’s Terminal 1.

Terminal 1 in the mid-1970s Photo : Steve Johnson


Early this month I visited the terminal for the last time, most airlines have already moved across to the new Terminal 2, and the British Airways flight I often take to Dublin is moving to Terminal 5 at the end of the month.

I took the opportunity to take a few photo’s to record the last days of Terminal 1.

Thanks for the memories, the long walks, slow moving security lines, the waits for arriving passengers to pass and allow mysterious doors to be opened and for being a gateway to world !

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Beyond the Selfie Stick..

Having spent the last few days in the tourist hotspot of Florence, it’s clear that the mobile gadget of the year is the selfie stick, a telescopic stick with a mount for your smartphone to take the perfect selfie beyond arms length.

It’s seems that you have not visited somewhere or taken part in any activity without the accompanying selfie  and it’s only a matter of time before Samsung and Apple start putting more effort in the front facing camera that they do with the traditional one.

The ultimate selfie however may come from a relative of this prototype.. the Nixie.

The Nixie is a personal photography drone,  and finalist in the Intel wearable technology contest, and is brilliant in two ways..  As an example of user centered product design and secondly as a insight into the potential legal and privacy concerns that will come when micro UAV’s become our personal companions.

I’ve already played with this cheap toy, much to the annoyance of the rest of my family.. imagine in the near future when the streets of Florence are swarming with them !

Scrappy GIS tutorial

Scrappy Server RackThis weekend I have had the pleasure of taking part in the European GIS Education Symposium at University College Cork.

I organised a workshop on Scrappy GIS, using simple web mapping tools in this case Google Maps Engine Lite to teach the concepts of GIS, without needing a GIS !

The tutorial is online here and should take around an hour to complete. It could form a great introduction to GIS at any level, and is of course a bit scrappy itself !

Scrappy is popular approach at Google, building simple and cheap tools from what you have to hand rather than waiting for the ideal solution, the famous Lego rack used for Google’s first server is the classic example of the approach.

Now I’m off to find a pint of Beamish..

Upcoming Specialist Meeting on Spatial Search..

The University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) is hosting a specialist meeting on Spatial Search, the call for papers ends on September 20th and proposals are requested on three topics..

  • Computational: What are the current computing challenges in spatial search? What are the limits of spatial indexing?
  • Geospatial: What kinds of spatial search are utilised in the geo-spatial domain?
  • Cognitive: What do we know about how humans conceptualise and perform information searches and how space helps?

It’s good to see GI Science addressing this topic as it offers great potential in a post SDI age..

SoC 50th Anniversary talk: Potential and propaganda

Last month I had the pleasure of presenting the 50th anniversary lecture of The Society of Cartographers in London.

My slides are below..

The slides I must admit are not much use of their own, but you might get some idea of the narrative of my talk. My key message I think was to highlight a paradox, although maps are more widely used that at any point in history the role of cartographers in achieving this has been at best peripheral.

Maps are more widely used because they are fundamentally more accessible, available to us on the mobile devices that are so important to our daily lives, and the maps themselves, manifestations of massive databases of geographic knowledge, are increasingly useful to us at a personal level, they can answer (in some cases literally) questions such as “Show me how to get home by Bike”.

These Maps or the now many other ways geospatial knowledge is communicated are the products of teams of software engineers, user interface designers, product managers and visionaries most of whom have a limited knowledge of cartography, just take a look at my good friend Ken’s excellent Cartonerd blog to see the results good and bad !

But there is an important role for cartographers, to help design future maps or services based on their knowledge of design and the intricacies of geographical information, have we as a industry forgotten or perhaps we never understood the axiom that in cartography “Less is more”

Of course I use many examples from Google to illustrate how much the approach to mapping has changed online in just the last decade, so I was accused of pedalling “Google Propaganda” ! OK maybe so, but there is a bigger picture here of course and other venders could provide similar examples..

There has never been a more exciting time to be involved in map making, perhaps the art and science of cartography needs to reset it’s scope now the media of communication is the screen rather than the page, but the potential surely is huge !

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 19.05.41




Well at least one person thought so !

Digital TV and paper maps

Did a short package with Dutch TV yesterday in Amsterdam talking about the differences between the maps of the great Dutch cartographers of the 17th Century and modern Google Maps.

In some ways there are surprising similarities, both in effect are all about discovery, earlier discoveries of new lands to exploit have been replaced by personal discoveries of places important to the individual a result of yes the democratisation of mapping.   

The 17th century maps of Blaeu et al are currently on display in Amsterdam at an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum, Het Scheepvaartmuseum, which is worth a visit if you get the chance.

As a amateur video geek I was impressed to see that even network TV now make use of digital SLRs for video production, not quite the shift mapping is going through from paper to mobile phones but still a significant step from the last generation of big professional video cameras.

Digital video technology has fundamentally changed TV production, I'm sure nobody on the production team of "Een Vandaag " know how to use cine film… I wonder when we will say the same thing about paper maps ?