4 Computers as tools for finding
4.1 Where am I and how do I get to … ?
Computers can be used to find things and the obvious thing they can find is information. The World Wide Web (WWW or just the web) is just one example of a vast store of information which can be searched to find what you want using computers (The web consists of linked data which is accessed via the internet using a browser). But computers can also ‘find’ things in the sense of locating them geographically, either by generating maps that can be used for navigation or by locating something or someone with reference to a map.
This section aims to:
describe how computers can be used in geographical applications (and, in doing so, it discusses maps and shows that maps can have uses beyond mere navigation);
describe and help you learn how to find information.
As you read on, you should try to determine for yourself:
what data is involved;
how it might be acquired;
what the computer is doing to this data;
what information is being presented, and for what purpose.
You may find it useful to take notes as you go along.
In Section 3, I used an example that gave a location (Ewe Hill in Northumbria) in terms of latitude and longitude, which are parameters for indicating specific locations on the face of the earth. (The word parameter comes from mathematics, and in this course means a property or characteristic – often measurable or quantifiable – of something.) Any point on the earth can be described in terms of latitude and longitude. Indeed, map-makers have used them ever since reasonably accurate means of determining them were developed in the eighteenth century.
Can you think of four or five quantifiable and measurable parameters that describe you? If you're not certain about this, try looking in your wallet or purse at things like your driving licence or other documents.
You might have listed things as: your age in years, your height in centimetres, your weight in kilograms, and your birth date. All of these are measurable or quantifiable characteristics of you.