The explosive growth of the Internet coupled with the increasing use of location-enabled devices such as smartphones has led to an increasing awareness of the importance of location information, which traditionally has been presented with a map. For centuries, maps have been used to convey abstractions of spatial information in a manner that is aesthetically pleasing and familiar to their users. Often this came at the expense of accuracy, which users have found to be acceptable, usually due to conformance with commonly held beliefs. For example, labels for place names are supposed to be placed on the map so they do not overlap names of other nearby places, and winding roads with switchbacks are represented with a screw-like symbol where the number of turns in the symbol usually has no correlation with the number of switchbacks actually present. In the past, maps were used not only to present information but also to store information, and to provide easy and rapid access to it (also known as indexing using today's parlance.32).
Traditionally maps were drawn by cartographers, who were often regarded as artists. This took a considerable amount of skill, effort, and time, and the maps are still highly valued from both financial and artistic perspectives. The advent of computers, and the increase in their use to produce maps, as well as the diversity and increasing sophistication of the output devices on which the maps are presented and viewed, led to a dramatic decrease in the time needed to produce maps, and hence in their variety and distribution. In particular, maps are no longer created and produced only when there was a sufficient demand for them, where "sufficient" was usually defined quantitatively. Moreover, maps are no longer necessarily printed nor assembled in collections such as atlases, often with a common theme, such as the display of particular attributes like crops, land use, rainfall, and so on. Instead, maps are produced in a custom-made manner to display some specific spatial relationship rather than in groups, most often in units of one, and in a way that allows them to be manipulated.
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