Find Old GIS Software Programs

Caitlin Dempsey


The Internet Archive is host to the largest historical archive of old software programs.  Now JSMESS, a Javascript port of the MESS emulator, allow users to try out archived software programs via their browsers.  

Jason Scott at the Internet Archive explains that with the instantaneous accessibility provided by in-browser emulators, users don’t have to “track down the hardware and media to run [old software], or access and install emulators and acquire/install cartridge or floppy images as you boot up the separate emulator program, outside of the browser.”

The number of programs that can run via an emulator in the browser only numbers about thirty but more programs are expected to added to the list. None of the thirty programs are GIS or mapping related but included among the classic software options are some old GIS software programs.  

How to run old GIS software programs

Digging through the archive list, I found a couple of GIS programs dating to 2003.  If you want to try them out, visit the The Old School Emulation Center which has a catalog of over 200 unique computing platforms you can retrieve.

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Canvas GIS Mapping (dated December 13, 2003) was donated to the archives by Tucows, Inc and was created by ACD Sytems.  The more modern iteration is known as Canvas 14 +GIS.  

Screenshot of Canvas GIS Map software from 2003.
Canvas GIS Map software from 2003.

The software program’s functionality included taking measurements in geographic coordinates, and importing Shapefiles and GeoTIFFs.  

You can take measurements in geographic coordinates, and import SHAPE and GeoTIFF files into unlimited numbers of automatically aligned overlapping layers. Canvas GIS also has 2,104 coordinate reference systems, 67 operation methods, and 1,052 map projections.

PC GIS is another 2003 program created by CMT (Corvallis Microtechnology), which still makes the software, known as PC-GIS Pro.  The PC based GIS program is described as providing “data import, coordinate system conversion, automatic labeling, Heads-Up Digitizing (HUD) for points, zoom tools and GIS layering.”

There are a few selections for Pocket PC including VITO SmartMap, GeoPDAMAPinPocket, and MapPad.

To browse the classic software options and to try out some of the programs prepped for in-browser emulators, visit The Internet Archive Software Collection page.

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.