Completion of the Atlas of population and housing, 1981 census series (Australia. Division of National Mapping et al. 1983, 1984a-f) marks the culmination of a decade of work in the urban social atlas field. But over that period there is evidence of increasing divergence of purpose, from initially twin objectives, theoretical and applied, to the avowedly applied focus of recent efforts. The future would appear to be seen by many practitioners in purely applied terms. Recent developments in expert systems and artificial intelligence, however, will require the reforging of links between conceptual thinking and technical advancement.