Driving Down The Price Of A Digitized Main Street

One of the hottest areas in computing these days is geographic information systems (GIS), which give geographers, cartographers, utilities, and others access to digitized maps. In computer form, maps can be constructed as a sequence of layers, which one can then view together, singly, or in any combination. Typically, GIS software and a complete set of U.S.-mapping data sells in the $100,000 range, but Wessex, a company based in Winnetka, Ill., is out to slash that price to the bone and expand the market.

The company has just come out with a package of 22 CD-ROM disks, called First St., which contains a digital map of ev-

ery street in the U.S. The price: $1,995. Included with the map data are demographic data gleaned from the 1990 U.S. census--some 6,000 variables in all. Software designed to run on IBM-compatible PCs can help business customers merge their data with information on the disks and plot the results in map form. That can help in locating a new store or planning transportation routes, for instance.