The government therefore decided to launch a national program to assist in management and inventory of its resources. The simple automated computer processes designed to store and process large amounts of data enabled Canada to begin a national land-use management program and become a foremost promoter of geographic information systems (GIS) (ref wikipedia).
The movie below is the second of a three part documentary on the system, it details the digitising process beghind the CGIS and provides an insight into how anywhere in the world can be located using 'numbers':
You can recreate the 1960's experience by loading up ArcMap and making 'beeping' noises while punching small holes in a business card.
Take a look at the other parts via YouTube.
Thanks go to Patrick Weber for sending round the link.