Onno Brouwer and members of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Cartography Lab celebrate their new start-up company, Mapping Specialists, which aims to provide quality cartography services to commercial clients outside the university. Their first office is in the basement of an apartment building in downtown Madison.
Late 1980s–early 1990s
Mapping Specialists grows slowly but steadily, limited to a large degree by the cartographic technology available at the time. State-of-the-art map making in this period involves negative scribing, a laborious process which requires cartographers to engrave map images into sheets of coated film on glass, using special tools for precise work.
The company moves to a more spacious facility on the south side of Madison, to accommodate a growing staff necessitated by a growing list of nationwide clients.
Computerized cartography debuts at Mapping Specialists with the purchase of the company’s first Macintosh II-series computer. Today’s smartphones have many times the computing power of this machine, but for 1990 this is cutting-edge.
CFO Jeff Kranz purchases Mapping Specialists with the goal of further expanding the company’s range of services and client base.
Faster computers with more memory allow the company to take on its biggest project yet, digital conversion of a major client’s paper street maps and regional atlases. Digital map versions are far easier and less expensive to produce and maintain, plus they can take advantage of developments in digital printing technology.
Our capabilities expand to include digital print-on-demand, finishing, and shipping services for online map sales. We continue to offer these services to multiple clients, utilizing two 60-inch wide printers and an industrial laminator, which provide our clients maximum flexibility for order fulfillment while eliminating inventory costs.
Current owner Dave Knipfer purchases the company. Despite the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, Mapping Specialists remains committed to serving its clients.
Mapping Specialists expands to offer interactive mapping services. Our first major project involves conversion of more than 1,000 Adobe Flash educational maps into HTML.
The Covid-19 pandemic forces the company’s office to close and all employees to work from home. Team productivity remains high, however, and we complete major projects including a large educational publishing program and a road atlas update.
Computer power and speeds offer cartographic capabilities unimaginable when Mapping Specialists started. Today we rely on the latest in equipment and software to create maps for diverse clients in education, travel, retail trade, and government. All new maps contain geographic encoding for accuracy and flexibility. This means that maps we make today can easily be expanded or revised in the future, and are functional for both print and online publishing.