Cartesian Coordinates

What Does Cartesian Coordinates Mean?

Cartesian coordinates specify the position of points on a two-dimensional or three-dimensional plane. They are based on the coordinate system developed by mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes. Cartesian coordinates consist of numbered lines on two or three axes, dubbed the x, y and z axes. In computing, these coordinates are widely used for graphics programming.


Techopedia Explains Cartesian Coordinates

Cartesian coordinates were invented by philosopher, mathematician and scientist Rene Descartes in 1637. The Cartesian coordinate system specifies points on two axes, or three axes in the case of 3-D graphs. The position of a point is specified in relation to its distance from the origin, or the point where all the axes converge. The x axis specifies the horizontal plane, and the y axis the vertical plane in two dimensions. In three dimensions, y represents forward and backward motion and the z axis represents the vertical plane.

Cartesian coordinates are represented in parentheses: (x,y) for 2-D and (x,y,z) for 3-D graphs. The origin for 2-D is represented as (0,0) and in 3-D as (0,0,0). Examples of other coordinates could be (-2,4), (2,2) or (5, -2, 1). While the origin is in the center in conventional Cartesian geometry, in graphics programming it is typically in one of the corners of the screen for convenience. Cartesian coordinates are widely used in both 2-D and 3-D graphics programs, such as games, to specify the location of objects.


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Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…