Mind Travelers: Explore the World Through Your Computer
It started at the office. My Mac was exchanging data with his Atari 1040 ST at an incredible 19200 baud. Once we got past a few rough spots, things began to move smoothly and we found ourselves with time on our hands.
"Check out Brunei," said he. "They have the highest per capita income in the world."
He had seen the new software on my desk—a geography thing. Well, what else would a couple of self-respecting mind travelers do? We powered up the Apple IIGS and began our world tour even as the Mac and Atari continued their high-speed dialogue.
Brunei. He knew more about it than I did. He located it on the northern coast of the island of Borneo. The entire country covered maybe two pixels of the computer's world map. "Point at it and click your mouse once to select a country," advised the software manual. That worked fine for the United States. It took considerable care with Brunci.
We pulled down a menu and chose Data Card. Total land area: 2226 square miles. Primary exports; petroleum, petroleum products, and natural gas. Population: 241,000. Total newspapers in circulation per 1000 people: 0. Daily per capita intake of calories: 2594. Oh, yes! Per capita income: $17,570.
Outside, fluffy snowflakes fell nonchalantly, covering everything with a two-inch blanket of white. My watch calendar read May 9, and no amount of tapping would change its mind. Our grass badly needed mowing, but we wouldn't be doing it today. "What's the climate like there?" I inquired with more than academic interest.
Another trip to the menu bar, a couple more mouse clicks, and a climate map of Asia appeared. According to the color key, Brunei is a tropical rain forest. Its Data Card claims an average January temperature of 81, an average July reading of 83.
We finished our work and my friend left. I wondered, "Does Brunei really have the highest per capita income?" I could wait no longer to check. Mouse walk, menu bar, click, click, and the screen listed all countries with average per capita incomes above $17,570. Several nations qualified, including the United States at $17,600 and Nauru at $20,000. None of the other 176 nations could top Nauru.
This 8.2-square-miles island in the South Pacific claims 8000 residents and a total population density of 987.8 people per square mile. They mine and export phosphates. If the database is right, each person consumes 233 million BTUs of energy, but the country produces none. People apparently don't fight there either, military expense per capita: $0.
What country has the highest per capita military expense? Do you know which nation has the most motor vehicles per 1000 people? How about the highest literacy rate?
MECC's World GeoGraph (Apple IIGS with 768K RAM, $139) answers these questions and thousands more like them. The program boasts 40 living maps, an almanac-like database with extensive search-and-compare capabilities, a graphing utility, and the ability to select data and create customized reports.
As a research tool for geography class, it has no peers. Most important of all, though, it's just plain fun to play with.
Do you see a country that you don't recognize? Click on it. Then open its Data Card for more information. Would you like a head-to-head comparison of several nations on specific categories of data? Select each one to be included. Then create graphs to compare them on any features available in the database. Want to save your place or export your findings to a text file? No problem.
Because it permits a nonlinear approach to geography, World GeoGraph encourages you to learn in your own way. Most of us, after all, prefer asking our own questions and discovering our own answers. As a tool for encouraging self-motivated exploration, World GeoGraph is a state-of-the art software package.
Not everyone, of course, has an Apple IIGS. That's not the point. What matters is that this program, along with others like it, demonstrates how increased computing power can and certainly will be used in the future. Suppose, for example, that it had 4000 maps instead of 40. Suppose it was delivered on CD-ROM and included 100 times as much data.
By the way, San Marino has more motor vehicles per 1000 people than any other nation in the world—833. The Unites States ranks second with 714. According to World GeoGraph, the literacy rate in the United States is 96 percent. Thirty-two countries do better than that; 23 of those claim a perfect score. And the country with the highest per capita military expenditure? Qatar.