[OSGeo-Announce] Today marks 30 years of GRASS GIS development

Anne Ghisla a.ghisla at gmail.com
Wed Jul 31 01:21:38 PDT 2013

Today the Free Software community celebrates the 30th birthday of GRASS
GIS! GRASS (Geographic Resources Analysis Support System) is a free and
open source Geographic Information System (GIS) software suite used for
geospatial data management and analysis, image processing, graphics and
map production, spatial modeling, and 3D visualization. GRASS GIS is
currently used in academic and commercial settings around the world, as
well as by many governmental agencies and environmental consulting
companies. GRASS GIS can be used either as a stand-alone application or
as backend for other software packages such as QGIS and R
geostatistics. It is a founding member of the Open Source Geospatial
Foundation (OSGeo) and can be freely downloaded at

Brief history

In 1982, Lloyd Van Warren, a University of Illinois engineering
student, began development on a new computer program based on a
master's thesis by Jim Westervelt that described a GIS package called
LAGRID – the Landscape Architecture Gridcell analysis system. Thirty
years ago, on 29 July 1983, the user manual for this new system titled
"GIS Version 1 Reference Manual" was first published by J. Westervelt
and M. O'Shea. The software continued its development at the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory
(USA/CERL) in Champaign, Illinois; and after further expansion version
1.0 was released in 1985 under the name Geographic Resources Analysis
Support System (GRASS). The GRASS GIS community was established the
same year with the first annual user meeting and the launch of
GRASSnet, one of the internet's early mailing lists. The user community
expanded to a larger audience in 1991 with the "Grasshopper" mailing
list and the introduction of the World Wide Web. The users' and
programmers' mailing lists archives for these early years are still
available online. In the mid 1990s the development transferred from
USA/CERL to The Open GRASS Consortium (a group who would later
generalize to become today's Open Geospatial Consortium -- the OGC).
The project coordination eventually shifted to the actual international
development team made up of governmental and academic researchers and
university scientists. Reflecting this shift to a project run by the
users, for the users, in 1999 GRASS GIS was released the first time
under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). A detailed
history of GRASS GIS can be found at http://grass.osgeo.org/history/.

Since these early days GRASS development has progressed and grown,
adjusting with and often at the forefront of new technologies as they
became available. Today GRASS's software development is maintained by a
team of domain experts as visualized in this beautiful new video
animation which stylistically details the codebase evolution and
modifications from 1999 through to 2013, up to and including the latest
GRASS GIS 6.4.3 stable release. 30 years of active growth: where are we

Recent versions of GRASS GIS come with exciting new features like:
- A *new modern graphical user interface
  <http://grass.osgeo.org/screenshots/user-interface/> * complete with
  integrated workflow-wizards and interactive tools, 
- A *new Python
  interface<http://grasswiki.osgeo.org/wiki/GRASS_and_Python> * to the
  core C geoprocessing libraries, permitting Python developers to
  create powerful new modules in a quick and simple way,
- Fully-fledged *topological vector support*
  <http://grass.osgeo.org/grass64/manuals/vectorintro.html>for editing
  and tools for topological analysis and data cleaning,
- Hundreds of *new modules* to analyze raster and vector data of all
  scales and types, with hundreds more contributed in an active
  community repository,
- Support for *massive data processing* (e.g. relevant for LiDAR
  processing) and Large File Support (> 2GB, 64-bit files on 32-bit
- A codebase *portable* to all of today's major Operating Systems,
- Installed on everything from low-power dataloggers and field laptops
  to high performance Grid Engines and TOP500 supercomputers. 

GRASS GIS is currently developed by a global team of around twenty core
programmers, plus numerous add-on contributors, testers, and
translators. Overall, more than seventy core developers have worked on
the code in the past thirty years, making over fifty-thousand
modifications to the code. All the while, hundreds more have provided
peer review and improvements to algorithms and documentation while
using GRASS GIS in professional, educational, and research contexts.

Where to next?

Development on GRASS GIS continues with as much energy and interest as
ever. Version 6.4.3 has been released as a birthday present. Parallel
to the long-term maintenance of the GRASS 6 stable series, effort is
well underway on the new cutting-edge major release, GRASS GIS 7,
bringing with it many new features, modules, enhancements, and
cleanups. As in the past, the GRASS GIS community is open to any
contribution, be it in the form of programming, documentation, testing,
financial sponsorship or any other form of support.

M. Neteler (GRASS GIS PSC Chair) and GRASS Development Team
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.osgeo.org/pipermail/announce/attachments/20130731/6d515b78/attachment.html>
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: signature.asc
Type: application/pgp-signature
Size: 836 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://lists.osgeo.org/pipermail/announce/attachments/20130731/6d515b78/attachment.pgp>

More information about the Announce mailing list