Digital terrain tapes: user guide




DMATC's digital terrain tapes are a by-product of the agency's efforts to streamline the production of raised-relief maps. In the early 1960's DMATC developed the Digital Graphics Recorder (DGR) system that introduced new digitizing techniques and processing methods into the field of three-dimensional mapping. The DGR system consisted of an automatic digitizing table and a computer system that recorded a grid of terrain elevations from traces of the contour lines on standard topographic maps. A sequence of computer accuracy checks was performed and then the elevations of grid points not intersected by contour lines were interpolated. The DGR system produced computer magnetic tapes which controlled the carving of plaster forms used to mold raised-relief maps. It was realized almost immediately that this relatively simple tool for carving plaster molds had enormous potential for storing, manipulating, and selectively displaying (either graphically or numerically) a vast number of terrain elevations. As the demand for the digital terrain tapes increased, DMATC began developing increasingly advanced digitizing systems and now operates the Digital Topographic Data Collection System (DTDCS). With DTDCS, two types of data elevations as contour lines and points, and stream and ridge lines are sorted, matched, and resorted to obtain a grid of elevation values for every 0.01 inch on each map (approximately 200 feet on the ground). Undefined points on the grid are found by either linear or or planar interpolation.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Unnumbered Series
Digital terrain tapes: user guide
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
National Cartographic Information Center
14 p.