Decades before Google Maps and other online mapping technologies would transform real estate search, Donald Cooke was plugging away on a U.S. Census Bureau project that would pave the way for digitalization of geographic information systems industry.

A proponent of making government information more accessible to the public, Cooke participated on a pioneering Census Bureau digital database project in the late 1960s. In 1980 he founded Geographic Data Technology Inc., a company that was contracted by the Census Bureau to digitize data sets.

Fifteen years ago, Cooke discussed advances in digital mapping and geocoding during the premier Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco.

In 2004, Cooke’s firm was acquired by Tele Atlas, a company that TomTom acquired in 2008. The company supplies data to Google Maps and to other providers of mobile and online mapping services, and also provides technology for automotive navigation systems.

Cooke now serves as community mapping evangelist for ESRI, a GIS firm based in Redlands, Calif.

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