Best-Fit Computing, Inc. was founded in 1991. The inspiration for Columbus Network Adjustment Software, however, happened several years before Best-Fit Computing became a business.
In 1979, while working at the Bureau of Land Management in Colorado, one of the frustrations we observed working on mining claims above 8,000 feet was the inadequate representation of coordinates for corners occurring at different elevations (in some cases, over 6000 feet different). As you can imagine, this lead to all sorts of problems when reporting/inversing/describing coordinates in a meaningful way that can be used by another future surveyor or even us. In this particular project, near Leadville, Colorado, hundreds of different mining claims had to be discovered, categorized, and then related to one another over an area of several square miles. To solve the problem, we looked at several existing commercial software products, but were unable to find anything satisfactory.
In 1982, we began working on a large 42-township (1,512 square miles) control project near Rifle, Colorado. Using Doppler surveying and PLSS record bearing/distance data, we were charged with generating a geographic position (latitude and longitude) for every section corner and quarter corner in the 42 townships. To complete this project, out of necessity we wrote some software. The need for good, workable, accurate software continued to exist, and in response to this need, Columbus development was begun.
Why the Geodetic Model?
The 3D geodetic model is the most general solution for accurately representing measurements on the earth’s surface. From determined 3D geodetic coordinates, you can generate practically any other coordinate system; you cannot do this in the reverse.
The 3D geodetic model is much simpler conceptually than projected coordinate systems have ever been. Many people are continually confused by State Plane coordinates. With 3D geodetic, you collect the same field data and the resulting coordinates (lat/long/hgt) do not lead to confusing issues regarding grid distance vs. ground distance, true north vs. grid north, or what is the mark-to-mark slope distance between these two points (surveyed by someone else). You can always transform your adjusted geodetic coordinates to State Plane, UTM, or other projected coordinate systems with just a few mouse clicks in Columbus.
The 3D geodetic model is geometrically exact. Your observations are used “as-is” in 3D space. There are no built-in systematic distortions due to reducing your observations to a 2D surface, then adjusting. Your survey can span as little as 0.01 meters or over 1,000 kilometers without the mathematics breaking down. Many software systems currently on the market begin to introduce noticeable mathematical distortion when you measure a distance over a few kilometers.
We have users performing cadastral surveys that may only need to be accurate to the nearest six inches. We have users in developing countries using this model to develop/restore positions across an entire country. We also have users who require the tightest tolerances of all, because they are responsible for constructing/maintaining 3D alignment of linear accelerators used for atom smashing. We also enjoy a strong presence in universities all over the world.
We developed Columbus because we enjoy applying advanced mathematics in the surveying profession. Many software developers (or any profession, for that matter) can tell you that there is no greater professional satisfaction than providing a valuable service or building something that people actually use to solve a real-world problem.
Not only do we enjoy the development process, but we especially enjoy our ability to provide these tools to users all over the world (there are Columbus users on every continent except Antarctica – but we’re still hopeful). Regardless, we are here to stay, committed to continually improve Columbus and provide powerful mathematical tools and advanced software solutions for the land measurement community of surveyors, geodesists, civil engineers and educational institutions worldwide.