Software that changed your life

Well that might be a big title for this post, but I was talking with some folks over the weekend about software you’ve used or software that has really influenced your life. I think many people say Google Earth has changed how they view data, but for me it really wasn’t that impressive since Google Earth is more of a validation of what we’ve done over the years than a life changer. So they pushed, what has changed your life if Google Earth isn’t it. I needed to think about it somewhat so you can consider this my reply to that question (in order of importance).

  1. hypercard.pngApple HyperCard – I really wasn’t into programming when I was younger. I spent most of my time away from computers and out playing sports. That is until I found HyperCard. OK, HyperCard is more scripting than pure programming, but it got me interested. From there I moved into Pascal and down the line into VB/C++ and .NET. Actually if you think about HyperCard, it is sort of like how the world wide web became. Hyperlinks take you to new cards, scripts run in the background. Way before its time.
  2. arcinfo.jpgArcInfo – Wow, you’d think it would be #1, but without HyperCard, I’m not sure I’d be where I am today. That said, I still remember the day I first saw someone create a map in ArcInfo and how quickly they were able to make changes vs my “traditional” methods. I love it all, from ArcEdit (no so much ArcPlot) to GRID and TIN. I’m sure I’d be a city planner right now (not that there is anything wrong with that) and not a GIS developer if I had not seen ArcInfo.
  3. bbedit.jpgBBEdit – I graduated college really before web development took off (I was more of a Gopher/Veronica user), but once it did I quickly discovered BBEdit. I’m still a registered user even though I currently don’t have a Mac in my position. When that 17” MacBook Pro shows up, BBEdit will be the first program loaded up. We all have our favorite text editors and this is mine
  4. freehand.jpgAldus/Macromedia Freehand – Before ArcInfo, I used to use Freehand for my cartography. I never was very into pen and paper cartography and I was much better as smudging my work than making it look good. With Freehand I could scan in maps and digitize, work to scale and pretty much everything I do these days with ArcMap (well of course there was no database on the back end). I stopped using Freehand around 1998 when the company I was working for forced us to start using Illustrator. I still use Adobe Illustrator to this day, but it was Freehand that got me thinking about digital mapping.
  5. arcview.jpgArcView 3.x – I’m not sure GIS would have the penetration it has today if ArcView 3.x didn’t come along with Avenue. ArcView was installed anywhere and everywhere. It was used as an Internet Map Server, replacement for ArcInfo and just about everything in between. A good Avenue programmer could make ArcView 3.x do things that used to take programmers that cost 10 times as much to accomplish. Of course you have to wonder given its large install base, how many copies were actually purchased. Missed revenue perhaps? Maybe not considering how locked into ESRI software many companies and organizations are these days. Might not have happened without ArcView 3.x. Our company spent many years developing customized ArcView projects and extensions. It was a very good business to be in back then.

What about other important software? Well programs like WordStar, Lotus 1-2-3, dBase and others did affect me, but I’m not sure they were as “life changing” as the ones listed above. I’m sure I’m missing one or two that are just as important as those I’ve listed (I did spend a year of my life playing MacBolo in college).

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