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Digitized .vs Scanned Base Maps - What's the big deal?

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Digitized .vs Scanned Base Maps - What's the big deal?

Postby postholer » Sun Dec 11, 2011 5:27 pm

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. For a very stark look at the differences, you need to look at them side by side:

http://postholer.com/mapcompare

Given the technology and methods used to create maps in days gone by, the current topo maps are nothing short of an act of sorcery. And those 24K maps are still mainstream today.

Today that magic continues in the form of continuing advances in technology. Most notably, collecting the data by satellite and other clever, non-labor intensive techniques.

If the technology is so much better today the question is, why are the old maps still the most widely used?

Until the popular vendors (such as National Geographic) update their software, I suspect old scanned maps will continue to be the norm.

That leads to data coverage. The old scanned maps cover every square inch of the United States and these large vendors are built around working with this old data. Digitized data has gaps, some pretty big. Why would a vendor offer only a partial product? Well, that just doesn't make sense. Their cash cow is the software with complete coverage, don't mess with it.

Big wheels turn slow. I suspect the data coverage also affects organizations like the USGS and USFS with their map offerings. Not to mention being tasked with compiling all this data. It's not a small task especially on dwindling resources.

Fortunately, that data coverage is particularly complete in the west. Not so much in the east. That's good for us western hikers! Especially us PCT enthusiasts.

Why? Because you get the whole package. The latest digitized PCT maps, complete with a 60 page, free data book.

And the price tag is about equal to printing out 'free' 20-50 year old scanned topo maps.

-postholer 8)
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