MIDRODEM Program History

Recent Splash screen messages
Version 17/18
Version 16
Version 12
Version 10
Version 9
Version 8
Version 7
Version 6.0x (Last TerraBase II )
Version 6.0
Version 5.1
Version 5
Version 4
Version 3

[Complete version history up to 2008]

Version number which was tied to the version of the Delphi compiler, has now been de-emphasized on the splash screen, in favor of the build number, which is easier to track because it changes daily instead of annually.

MICRODEM (for Microcomputer Digital Elevation Models) is an outgrowth of TERRANAL (Terrain Analysis) version 3.01, written at the Computer Graphics Laboratory, Department of Geography and Computer Science (now Geography and Environmental Engineering), US Military Academy. A parallel version of the program ran in Turbo Pascal under CPM on the Apple II based MICROFIX System One (AN/UYK-71), a fielded Army system. Version 1.0 of MICRODEM, running only on the CGA (an archaic color monitor with 320x200 resolution featuring 4 colors), provided a close copy of the MICROFIX system fielded to Army terrain units in the summer of 1986. The West Point terrain analysis software eventually became TerraBase and ran solely on MS-DOS machines, and was turned over to the Engineer Topographic Laboratories (ETL, then TEC for Topographic Engineer Center, and now AGC, Army Geospatial Center AGC) to support the Army terrain units. TerraBase has since been replaced by DTSS, the Digital Topographic Support System, initially running on work stations. Peuquet and Bacastow (1991) have an interesting perspective on the institutional inertia in getting a system into the field.

After the primary author of TERRANAL left USMA for first UNLV and then USNA, he completely rewrote MICRODEM to support EGA/VGA/Super VGA graphics and moved to successive new versions of Turbo Pascal and then Delphi. MICRODEM includes scientific applications and incorporates significant new functional capabilities, runs on higher resolution monitors and printers, and allows use of many additional DEMs and other data sets.

TerraBase Trainer (TBT) was developed in June 1990 to support the Terrain Analysis course EV203 ("Dirt") at West Point. TBT was in fact a subset of MICRODEM; it was impossible to run TerraBase on anything like a cadet computer of that era. TBT originally worked on a two floppy (3") system with 640 kb RAM and 256 kb EMS. TBT removed many of the less frequently used options from MICRODEM, especially those to manipulate the data sets as opposed to displaying them, and thus provided a meaner and leaner program.  It started the process of using compiler directives to provide options in the MICRODEM program which could be removed or included as required.

WinDEM was the first true Windows version of MICRODEM.. The first widely distributed version appeared in January 1996 and was a major effort during a sabbatical at Deep Springs College in easternmost California.

With the retirement of the DOS version of the program in early 1996, Windem reverted to MICRODEM.  Source code for the DOS version, circa March 1995, is available on the USNA web site with no support.  We cannot recompile that DOS version without significant archaeological effort to find a working compiler, and have no interest in doing so as  it has not had any of the enhancements to the program since 1995.

After a study to find a program for teaching terrain analysis and digital data to its students, in late 1996 the Army Engineer school at Fort Leonard Wood selected MICRODEM as the best alternative (Kirby, 1997; Adams and Hooper, 1998) . In the summers of 1997--1999 the Army Engineer School funded creation of TerraBase II. This was a subset of MICRODEM for military training in DEMs and computerized terrain analysis.  Work continued with the Engineer School during the summers of 2000, 2001, and 2002 to improve the capabilities of the program.  The last efforts have focused on true GIS capabilities, although an emphasis on DEMs and geology  (for the author's teaching and research) remains in MICRODEM.

In the fall of 1999 MICRODEM and TerraBase II became a single program. Previously they had shared code, but conditional compiler directives created two distinct executable versions.  Choices on the options menu  allow users to hide functions they do not need.  Compiler directives are now used primarily to include additional debug code when problems turn up that cannot be rapidly fixed; the Debug log lists active directives.  The Terra Base II home page at Fort Leonard Wood had the latest official releases, which underwent  rigorous testing.  After the release of version 6.03 in the spring of 2003, there was no further work on Terra Base II. All later versions of MICRODEM should be regarded as alpha or beta software; the program is frequently updated to support research, teaching efforts, or to fix bugs. 

Key publications for MICRODEM

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Last revision 10/12/2017