Happy Belated Birthday to the GPS


Artist rendering of a GPS satellite above the Earth. Image: U.S. Air Force

Artist rendering of a GPS satellite above the Earth. Image: U.S. Air Force

You might have missed it, but the GPS turned 25 last month (2/14/14).

My first n exposure to the GPS was in the early 1990’s, courtesy of a friend who found my condo using GPS.  I suspect her Mercedes was one of the first, if not the first, models to come equipped with onboard GPS at that time.

I’ve used GPS on my phone since 2008, and love it.  I always say that f or the long-distance trips, a map always has been the best tool.  When you get to your destination, the turn-by-turn instructions that GPS provides are a life-saver.  Hyperbole maybe, but when you find yourself lost at night, GPS can be a friend indeed.

Some say GPS makes us dumb; some say we no longer can read a road map and have lost our navigational skills.  I beg to differ.

I love to read maps, and am the designated “navigator” on road trips my husband and I take. Armed with my AAA maps and guide books, I can get us from point A to Point B, using the guide book to highlight attractions along the way.  But as we near our destination, I’ll fire up the GPS to guide us to the hotel or attraction we seek.

Getting back to maps:  My personal favorites for road trips are the AAA maps.  I know their map legends like the backs of my hands.  State-produced maps and other so-called tourist maps are lacking in one or more areas: mileage markers, rest stop indicators, etc.

I’ve always loved maps.  I believe I inherited this love from my father, who always had lots of atlases and road maps in the house.  Even though we never took many trips by car that were farther than 200 miles from our home, he always had maps: road maps, atlases, National Geographic maps.

I always like to read maps like a book.  I look at the names for the small towns that are in the hinterlands between two cities.  Sure, Google maps will show some of them, but I’m not sure Google Maps’ resolution will indicate “wide patches  in the road” the way paper maps can. Try it sometime.   Pick up a map & read it.  There are some quirky town names out there in this great land of ours.

So happy belated birthday GPS!  I think, however, that I shall keep both my GPS and paper maps in my navigational quiver.

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