It is a rapidly growing technological field that incorporates graphical features with tabular data in order to assess real-world problems. What is now the GIS field began around 1960, with the discovery that maps could be programmed using simple code and then stored in a computer allowing for future modification when necessary. This was a welcome change from the era of hand cartography when maps had to be painstakingly created by hand; even small changes required the creation of a new map. The earliest version of a GIS was known as computer cartography and involved simple linework to represent land features. From that evolved the concept of overlaying different mapped features on top of each other to determine patterns and causes of spatial phenomenon.
The capabilities of GIS are a far cry from the simple beginnings of computer cartography. At the simplest level, GIS can be thought of as a high-tech equivalent of a map. However, not only can paper maps be produced far quicker and more efficiently, the storage of data in an easily accessible digital format enables complex analysis and modeling not previously possible. The reach of GIS expands into all disciplines and has been used for such widely ranged problems as prioritizing sensitive species habitat to determining optimal real estate locations for new businesses.