shrug-l: Way back when

Sykes, John John.Sykes at
Wed Nov 3 10:45:47 EDT 2010

I remember working on the Environmental data for litigation arising from the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear accident in the mid-to late-1980’s on USGS 7½ minute topographic maps that we had glued together (3 x 3 maps) using Mylar overlays and Chartpack dots.  I found a product called MapExpert (by DeLorme) which I paid for out of my own pocket.  The attorneys we were working with thought the large 5’ x 5’ map was “THE way to go” to present testimony in court, and weren’t interested in (translation - wouldn’t pay for) the computer-based map.  In fact, I remember spending an entire day working with them to decide what shade of green they wanted for the dots (turned out that Chartpack didn’t make the shade they wanted, so we had a custom run made by Chartpack from the Pantone card the lawyers selected).

Finally one day they came to our office to review the work.  The chief attorney said if he chose one point on the map (which was just about obliterated with all the ¼” dots), how could we show the actual data for that point.  We showed him how each of the Chartpack dots had a tiny code number on it, then went to one of 6 or 8 three-ring binders that I had printed-out from the dBase database I had put the environmental data into to look up that point (there were 20,000 samples, more or less), and in five minutes we could find the data for that point.

I said, “Or . . . . . . . “
I took him into my office and showed how I could point at that same point with the mouse on my computer, click and the data for that point would pop-up on my screen.  The lawyers paid for the copy of MapExpert the next week and told me to be prepared to use the computer in the courtroom.  Our major discussion then was whether to use multiple color monitors or a projection screen (which were not that good at that time).  Now, of course, you would have all this set up in a PowerPoint presentation.

However, that never happened, because we won a summary judgment in the case, which was later upheld by the US Supreme Court.

I also used AutoCAD (Version 9) for some early GIS-style work.  One of the products that we found particularly useful for mapping radioactive contamination at cleanup sites was Surfer.  But that’s dating myself.

By the way, later when working on the TMI data (around 1990 – 1991), I took something new, called a GPS receiver, and actually drove the routes that the Environmental Monitoring teams had driven during the TMI accident in 1979.  I would use the descriptions of the sample locations in their log books and save them as waypoint on the GPS receiver, then download later on my PC.  When a friend of mine at the US Department of Energy heard about this, he asked for a demonstration.  Then he put out the word and the US Government bought hundreds of handheld GPS units for all the agencies that would respond if another nuclear accident ever occurred.

-- John

The Department of Environmental Protection values your feedback as a customer. DEP Secretary Mimi Drew is committed to continuously assessing and improving the level and quality of services provided to you. Please take a few minutes to comment on the quality of service you received. Copy the url below to a web browser to complete the DEP survey: Thank you in advance for completing the survey.

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...

More information about the SHRUG-L mailing list