May 1, 2014 David Lang

Throwback Thursday: Scholars Don't Care About Maps

atlas 2-cdIn a previous Throwback Thursday post, I told you about a meeting way back in 1995 that helped get us thinking about developing a Bible Atlas that would prove to be years ahead of its time. Two years later, we had developed a limited prototype covering little more than the region of Galilee, and we were about to focus all of our attention on completing development of the Atlas. Having just released Accordance 3.0, with ground-breaking features such as Greek and Hebrew text-to-speech and diagramming, we had plenty to show at that year's Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, but we were so excited about the Atlas prototype we couldn't resist showing it off as well.

By 1997, the success of Windows 95 and Apple's own missteps had sent it into something of a death spiral. At the same time, the power and ease-of-use Accordance offered had earned it a reputation as the software to have for serious study, and many Bible scholars were buying Macs just to be able to use Accordance. This meant that we had a lot of people coming by the booth wanting to see what Accordance could do, yet with serious misgivings about the future of the Mac platform. The Atlas was a great way to show that there were still some really cool things you could only do on a Mac.

At that year's SBL, we were using a projector to show Accordance on a big screen. We naturally showed Accordance with Greek and Hebrew text in parallel, the new Diagram window, and other features of Accordance 3.0. We also showed some of the map images from the new Atlas prototype. Our hope was that these would grab the attention of conference attendees and draw them into the booth to learn more about Accordance. I saw this as a no-brainer, but someone from outside our company questioned the wisdom of using maps to attract attention. Apparently believing that serious scholars would regard such flash as fluff, he told us, "Scholars don't care about maps."

Now, as a very part-time seminary student at the time, I was admittedly no Bible scholar, but I found myself completely dumbfounded by this assertion that scholars don't care about maps. Even those engaged in high-level linguistic study presumably had to teach the occasional introductory survey course, and surely maps would come in handy then, right? I therefore ignored the unsolicited advice not to show the Atlas and kept the maps on the screen.

Sure enough, the Atlas prototype drew a lot of people in, and when we demonstrated what you could already do with the prototype people were absolutely blown away. We released the Atlas in July of 1998, right about the time Steve Jobs was back at Apple unveiling a colorful new all-in-one desktop computer called the iMac. That year's annual meeting of SBL was fun. We had people coming into the booth just to see our new iMac, and when we showed them the new Bible Atlas they seemed to forget any questions they might have had about the Mac's long-term viability.

Since that time, our interactive Bible Atlas has been one of our best-selling products and among our users' favorite features. If you've been missing out on all the fun, be sure to check out our Graphics Bundle.

That is, of course, unless you're one of those scholars who just doesn't care about maps!

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