Industry Loses Scott
Scott Elliot died January 10, 2001, losing a long battle with lung
cancer. Scott's involvement in GIS had a profound impact on the current
state of the industry. His data company, Wessex, revolutionized GIS
delivery in 1992 when it offered nationwide coverage for about $1,000 - a
tiny fraction of what other vendors were charging at the time. The
so-called "Wessex effect" not only inspired several other
companies to follow suit but more importantly, it allowed the adoption of
desktop GIS by many organizations that would otherwise have been shut out
of the market.
John Haynes, of Geodata Consultants, recalls the rollout of Wessex data
(from a post to MapInfo-L): "I was in Troy in 1992 when Scott
unveiled his $995 Wessex product that was every bit as good as the
$100,000 U.S. Streets being sold by MapInfo. Because he happened to do it
at the MapInfo Reseller conference, his ejection from the group was as
dramatic as the boys from Troy could make it. Kind of like those old
Western movies where the offending officer was stripped of his buttons
with a sword and marched out the gate of the fort to Indian
After Wessex was purchased (first by BLR, then by GDT) Scott moved into
publishing. He founded Directions Magazine in 1998, the first online GIS
publication of any size. Articles by experts and quick access to breaking
news established the site as a required daily stop for the geospatial
I first met Scott when I worked at ESRI. We knew him as the "Wessex
guy." I'm not sure I realized the impact of his data on desktop GIS
in the early 1990s. Scott himself recalled his first MapInfo (DOS) demo in
1989: "I've been enthralled ever since." Desktop GIS was just
coming of age in the early 1990s - ArcView and MapInfo were stabilizing
and users were realizing its possibilities. Without data, of course, GIS
is nothing. And, until Wessex, data - any data - was thousands of dollars.
Because Wessex was an ESRI partner, all of the US offices, including mine
in Boston, used the data extensively for demonstrations.
The real contribution of Scott and Wessex, however, was awareness. The
introduction of low priced data invited users, for the first time, to
evaluate their data needs. How much data did they need? How much detail
was required? More and more questions about accuracy and availability came
to light and made better data consumers of us all. Specialized data
providers began to distinguish themselves and find niche markets to call
their own. That process continues today.
I was intrigued when Directions Magazine came online. I liked the idea
that a GIS insider was writing and serving GIS information. Scott's first
breaking story - the announcement of Microsoft's mapping/GIS product
MapPoint - brought much of the GIS community to his site. Scott even
started a companion publication to cover MapPoint, MP2K.
Bill Davenhall, of ESRI, one of Scott's first customers and longtime
friend, puts it this way: "It's difficult for me to think about a
world without the penetrating ideas of Scott. He seemed to have a
never-ending supply of ideas that challenged every part of the business
geographics community. I am quite sure that I will never forget the day he
introduced the world to his Wessex street files. Back then I called his
move "like dropping a depth charge into snake infested waters."
Now -- almost eight years later -- I realize that Scott launched a whole
new generation of GIS practitioners, and frankly, that was what Scott was
about: breaking down barriers that kept the masses out. I will certainly
miss Scott and his unquenchable enthusiasm for challenging the status quo
of our industry and always pushing the envelope of where this exciting
technology could lead".
I was a daily visitor to Directions during my tenure at ESRI. Today a
great many links at TenLinks are to articles at Directions. The future
will reveal the full extent of Scott Elliott's impact on our industry.
Funeral services were held January 13, 2001, in Winnetka, IL. Scott was
52 years old. He is survived by his wife, Jane, and his stepson, Johnny.
One of the Early Business Geographers - Hal Reid, Directions Magazine http://www.directionsmag.com/features.asp?FeatureID=41
About Scott Elliott - from Directions Magazine http://www.directionsmag.com/author.asp?id=6
Publisher's Note 11/2/98 (On Directions beginnings) http://www.directionsmag.com/columns.asp?ColumnID=5
GDT Acquires BLR Data and Wessex - Business Geographics http://www.geoplace.com/bg/1998/1098/1098nws.asp
ArcView 2 with Wessex - Review in Business Geographics http://www.geoplace.com/bg/1995/0495/0495feat.asp
Magazine for MapPoint
Directions Magazine Appoints New Editor http://www.tenlinks.com/mapgis/news/pr/011801Directions.htm