Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Better than Toynbee Tiles

Ok Pittsburgh geography/history geeks, top this!  I give you the:

City of Pittsburgh - Survey Control System Update Phase I of 1988.

First off, I would love to know what that report cost.  But it is pretty amazing and just the summary is full of incredibly wonkish history.  The City's "Geodetic Survey and Mapping Division" dates back to 1925 and was set up at the instigation of Frederick Law Olmstead.  Supposedly the city of Pittsburgh had "the world's first Global Positioning System (GPS) technology for geodetic control of a city in 1984."  You might think all tech/city things were new? Maybe not and maybe we just lost the edge we once had?

But it gets better. The city apparently maintained a "geodetic control system" between 1925 and 1962, and subsequently seems to have lost all institutional memory of said system until the 1980s. The report was part of a 're-discovery' of past work. That work included searching for 895 geodetic control points installed throughout the city earlier in the century.

Can we find any of these geodetic control points today?  And what happened after this report came out?   What is really amazing is that it is pretty clear Pittsburgh was once on the geography/data cutting edge and somewhere lost its way.  I'll go into the past history of Allegheny County and Pittsburgh's historic data infrastructure in the future, but again there was once some cutting edge work here.... most all would be lost either before of coincident with the economic miasma of the 1980s.

Anyways.. we have to find at least one of these.  One appendix (staring on page B-2) of that report linked above goes through a list of markers they found, or knew the disposition of. 


Blogger Vannevar said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Thursday, May 08, 2014 5:43:00 AM  
Blogger Vannevar said...

wow. Widely distributed, free to observe, hidden in plain view or obscured by the human jungle; referred to by archaic code names in outdated documents with hints of locations.

We need one Yinzer Hipster to find one market, then the rest will be all over it.

Perfect job for summer interns? Theme for a book, "Lost Geopoints in Hell With the Lid Off", about summer bromance while searching for the markers?

Crowdsource teh search by reminding people that the markers are constructed of solid gold, encased in brass, to avoid undue thermal expansion?

Thursday, May 08, 2014 5:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are these the little aluminum discs in the sidewalks?

See quite a few of them in my neighborhood.

Thursday, May 08, 2014 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Brady said...

It appears that people already do hunt for and track these benchmarks:

Finders took photos in some cases logged on the geocaching site. It appears that some benchmarks were placed by national efforts, but some have Pittsburgh stamps, like this one (KX1489) in Homewood:

Thursday, May 08, 2014 2:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the maps are available here

Thursday, May 08, 2014 2:53:00 PM  
Blogger joe said...

Was this what they used to create that cool map that hangs in the reception area of the Office of the Mayor?

Somebody needs to update that one (after Uptown is re-re-developed), then maybe blow it up big and build a giant climbing/hanging wall out of it for the kids. Sideways Pittsburgh.

I was downtown today around the Tower construction site,* felt like I was in NYC I'm telling ya with the street energy! That's going to be one cool building (especially on a day like today).

*In the spirit of Lord Myron's late great attempt to get us to call PNC Park "Clemente Field," can we just call it "The Tower" ?
Or maybe the Jolly Green Tower?

I'm open to other suggestions, and do thank PNC for their kind sponsorship, but come on, don't tell me this town ain't got no soul. We've got buried treasures and Pirates on a 2 game winning streak.


Thursday, May 08, 2014 4:04:00 PM  

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