My People

Jul 8, 2019 | QGIS, Rambling

Let’s flash back to 1996. The Olympics were in full swing. I was 2 years out of college and working for the federal government. I had only been to one “conference” and that was only a state level academy of science meeting. I found myself standing at the underused Chattanooga Airport headed to Cincinnati and then to Palm Springs to the 1996 ESRI users Conference. Coolest part was I was so inexperienced in flying when we were delayed leaving Chattanooga because Al Gore was coming to the Olympics – I had no worry. I would make my connecting flight because there was no way they would leave Cincinnati¬† without me on board. In Cincinnati I was standing in front of the near empty gate because the plane had left. So I was then routed to Chicago. I ended up in Palm Springs at nearly midnight. No rental car because somehow that had gotten cancelled. I stumbled into my room and sat there hungry and hating life with no luggage. The Luggage eventually turned up a little worse for wear. I think it went somewhere far away and was driven in….

The next day I found myself at registration at the Conference center in Palm Springs. I registered and went for a walk. I dragged my giant bag of stuff around with me. The Palm Springs convention center was big – but not terribly large. You could draw a dot on a map on “where are you from” and surprise there was only a few TN dots there. There were special interest groups. There were developers walking around. There were users. There was Bob Hope’s house down the street. There was golf. There was a lot of wind.

Two things happened that week.

  • I was blown away by a conference. I think there was only 3 or 4 thousand there. Maybe less. It was a good group of people. I mean the conference was nice – but I found a lot of like minded people there making maps and worrying over data. So I talked to people. I spent a lot of time just wandering the halls taking notes. The one talk that still sticks with me 23 years later – the guy that wrote ArcPlot gave a demo of “Tricks and Tips for Arcplot” (I think). As I was the guy who was getting hit by a lot of map requests I was pretty overjoyed to know I could edit data from Arcplot (plus copy files and move things around on the network without leaving ArcPlot). I also got a chance to hassle one of the arcpress developers (look it up – I’m not explaining it). The guy (whose name I can’t remember) finished the demo and turned to the near silent crowd and went “TADAAAAAAA” and everyone clapped. I may have stood up and clapped – Printing was a big deal back then.
  • I was sitting in the audience when Jack (who seemed really irritated at the Conference Center) announced “We are going to San Diego next year”. I think I went back to San Diego in 98 or 99 and once more in 2002.
  • (Third thing) – Some guy from ESRI Pulled up at a door in a VW bus. He had a keg or three crammed in the back and it was all held in place by some Sun Sparc Servers (look it up). I helped him Unload the beer.¬† We didn’t drop a server. Imagine that happening in San Diego…….

The move to San Diego ended up doubling the crowds. To me it was more of a pain to get a room and navigate your way downtown than it was worth. Yeah it is nice to see 10,000 other people who were doing “GIS” things – but I really don’t remember much from those years except for the times I snuck out of the conference and went to the San Diego Zoo and was probably almost eaten by a shark in La Jolla.

I’ve been watching Twitter and the ESRI UC is coming up for 2019.

I won’t be there. Which – no joke if I bought a ticket I doubt I’d be let in the front door….and that’s completely fine. That side of my career isn’t that exciting currently.

If I look back at my entire career in Geo (now at 27 years) it’s always been a never ending pile of new things coming down the pike that were earth shaking getting announced at this conference. Learn Arcview Avenue – hey now we are switching to VBA. You can compile ArcINFO with TK for a better ArcTools Experience. Lemme learn VBA and now we’re at VB. Hey we have MapObjects…no wait ArcObjects…….no wait we’ve got SDE for databases…….and look a map on the web…Hey Python I should learn that now…3D (Which I saw a demo of in 1996) is going to be revolutionary. My social media is exploding with posts and pics and that was me pre-social media on cloud 9 talking to people and learning that:


Anyway – where was I going with this. I have no idea to be honest. I spent an hour looking for the pics I took in Palm Springs. I took a ton of pics with my fairly new 35 mm camera (look it up) – and they are somewhere in a box.

I did crank up ArcMap 10.2 this week to fix a problem I had that couldn’t be fixed in QGIS. No Joke. I sat there just staring at the screen. I couldn’t remember how to dump a DWG to a file based Geodatabase. Back in 2014 I spent an inordinate amount of time wishing for functionality that wasn’t in QGIS that I had in Arcmap. Friday I spent an inordinate amount of time wishing for functionality that wasn’t in ArcMap that I had in QGIS. Plus I really need to look at Pro at some point. Sigh.

If I could bounce back in time to 1996 Randy and go “Hey in 2019 you can’t remember how to work ESRI products” he would probably laugh and throw something at me. I would also yell for him to enjoy that hair while it lasted which won’t be much longer. Oh yeah – trade the truck sooner. Go ahead and buy a dumpy house in 1997 on the North End of town and don’t worry – it will be fine as you won’t leave your job for another 10+ years.

For all of you out at the ESRI UC Рenjoy yourselves. It will be a massive week of demos and things happening within the ESRI Ecosystem of products. What will I do this week? Teach a QGIS Class for a group who just transitioned out of the ecosystem.  As much crap as I give the ESRI people at times РI do miss it a little (a little).

Anyway – I’m gonna go watch a movie and hope 1996 Van Halen doesn’t Break up.

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