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Change is no stranger to Maine mapmaker

This article appears in the issue April 2000 [Volume 9, Issue 3]

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In the 1950s and '60s, Maine humorists "Bert and I" recorded a series of comedy albums. The storytellers spun Yankee tall tales and encounters with folks "from away." Classic among them was the lost tourist who was advised after much hemming and hawing, "You cahnt git theyah from heyah."

Today, those wayward flatlanders would need to get no farther than Yarmouth, ME, and the headquarters of DeLorme, which is proving you can--with the help of sophisticated mapping tools--find your way to any spot on earth.

DeLorme began nearly 25 years ago as publishers of the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer, a detailed topographic state map that includes not only highways, but trails, boat ramps, lakes, campgrounds and wilderness areas. As the company expanded into computer mapping and software publishing, it became one of the earliest distributors of CD-ROM reference maps. The most popular among them, Street Atlas USA, provides street maps of the entire United States and is now in its ninth year of production.

Competing with corporate heavyweights like Rand McNally and Microsoft, DeLorme has responded by being first to market with its software maps on CD, custom product integration and GPS interface systems.

"With so much growth across the U.S. today, mapmakers have a lot to keep up with," says Amy Head, communications director at DeLorme.

More recent products have been released in cooperation with business partners and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which are expanding the geographic data provider once again. The Earthmate GPS (global positioning system) receiver turns a Palm Pilot or Windows CE system into a portable GPS.

DeLorme sees opportunity in map-enabling Web sites. The company's new "Eartha" system (which shares its name with a globe so huge in DeLorme's lobby that it holds a Guinness World Record) lets businesses license DeLorme's geo-coding and mapping technology for their own intranets or Web sites.

The company's responsiveness to change is reflected in its process for updating mapping changes. The company employs a team of mapmakers to stay in touch with federal, state and local government agencies to obtain their most current road and topographic information.

"We incorporate as many verified changes as we can into new editions of our products," Head says.

DeLorme encourages input from its customers and often receives data from them regarding changes or additions to roads or developments. Head says that before that local knowledge is incorporated into any products, it is verified by checking with the municipality or state.

Since consumer and business software products are usually upgraded every eight to 12 months, DeLorme customers are offered a special upgrade price and receive an entirely new version of the product.

While DeLorme has a strong presence in the consumer mapping software and paper map markets, it is beginning to expand further into business and professional mapping. Evidence of that are two recently released products--XMap Business and 3-D TopoQuads.

"We've also created a very strong mapping program for the Internet, which can be easily built into other companies' Web sites," says Head. "For example, we've partnered with Road Runner of Maine to create an Internet-mapping service called Road Router. We've also worked with several national companies to put mapping services on their internal or external Web sites."

Predictably given Maine's 5,000 miles of coastline, DeLorme may enter the nautical market when it feels it can add significant value to what currently exists in that market


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