Friday, July 24, 2009
In praise of maps
Today on the radio there was a broadcast about the GPS systems that are everywhere in our lives. The guests were praising the "interface between humanity and technology" and saying how it is always right.
A GPS is only as good as its maps that have been downloaded. How complete are they? What do they reference? One guest said the GPS was great as it took him to points of interest. What a sterile thought...to be guided to what someone else, the computer programmer considers a point of interest. How packaged can your lives get? GPS for everyday use treats us like idiots
Moreover, no one mentioned maps. I love maps. They allow you to plan a route and to explore little known roads and towns. A map treats you, the user with respect. You have to unfold it, take it out, measure distances and plan. Planning a trip is almost as fun as actually taking it. You have to research. Using a map allows you a measure of creativity and flexibility. A map, unlike GPS does not speak to you saying "Turn right" or "Stop here". A map does not dictate, like the sea charts of the early explorers, it allows you to explore and to chart out unknown territories or towns. Maps dont need batteries!
Maps are also portable, you can stick them in your glove compartment. I have had to update my maps only occasionally and for the larger towns with all of the new subdivisions. Maps moreover. have little roads that the GPS might not have and allow you to explore.
While a GPS system is very useful for mapping...my husband Cyril is using a GPS system to map the location of rare trees within the experimental farm in Ottawa, I think for trips and car usage, it is very overblown.
I have friends who use the GPS to go hiking and trekking. Again, a map and compass was not only more fun, it was more challenging. You had to count footsteps, take readings and I used to imagine myself as Samuel de Champlain with an astrolabe!
I am not a luddite, I own a computer and a digital camera but in this case, for the everyday person who needs directions...a map is by far the superior choice.
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