Compass History, Goals And Philosophy
COMPASS has a long history. It was originally written to handle 20
years of data from Groaning Cave in Colorado. The data had never been
computerized, so there were all kinds of problems. For example: there were hanging backsights, bad ties-in, out-of-order shots, mixed units, changing declinations
and lost surveys. Every conceivable type of instrument had been used, so
every imaginable units were used. For example, there were meters, feet, feet
and inches, degrees, degrees and minutes, quads, mils, and percent grade.
As a result, from the very beginning, COMPASS had to be very flexible
COMPASS was originally written in 1979 and ran on a PDP-10 mainframe
computer. It was originally written in ALGOL. In 1982 it was ported to the
Apple II computer. In 1987, it was ported to the IBM PC, running under DOS.
In 1994, the process of converting to the Windows operation system began.
The current version of COMPASS is written in XPL, C++, Pascal and
Goals and Philosophy
When you cut through everything, the main goal of this software is to allow
cavers to visualize and analyze caves. From the very beginning, what I wanted was to
be able look through solid rock and see what the caves looked like. I wanted
to make them float in front of my eyes in three-dimensions, so I could see
what the passage trends were; to see where the good leads might be.
In addition, the software had to be easy to use. I wanted to make sure that
everyone could use it, not just a few cyber-geeks. Since I actually use this
software, I didn't want to have to run to the manual to do everything. I
didn't want cryptic error messages and bugs that locked up the system.
As a result of all this, COMPASS is user driven software. This means
that most of the changes and improvements made to COMPASS are based
on suggestions made by the users of COMPASS. For example, in the last
year, there have been more than 100 improvements to the Windows version alone.
I usually upload new versions of COMPASS every month or so.
About The Author Of COMPASS
Larry Fish is a writer, caver, programmer and hardware designer living in
Denver Colorado. He has been caving since 1957 and programming since 1975.
He specializes in graphics, CAD and assembly language programming. His programs
have been used by institutions such as NOAA, NASA, Woodshole Oceanographic, Smith
Kline French and many others. Currently, he is designing astronomical and
aerospace software for DFM Engineering His latest articles appear in the the December
1995 edition of "Circuit Celler Ink" and the Summer 1996 edition of "Sing
Cave Data In Compass Format
A large number of cave surveys are maintained in the COMPASS format.
I currently have over 300 surveys, mostly from the Western United States
and Mexico. Specifically, I have nearly all of the caves in Colorado, some
caves in New Mexico, South Dakota and Mexico. I also have contacts for other
Some of this data is in the public domain, some of it has limited distribution
and some of it is absolutely restricted. If you are trying to locate cave
data, feel free to contact me and I will make the appropriate connections.
You can contact me here: Compass