Sunday, 12 April 2015

"Turn round when possible"

Followed, sometimes fairly swiftly, sometimes not, by, "recalculating route".  Here's to the good old sat-nav!

There is a built-in sat-nav in my present car, the one I bought a year ago almost to the day, and I'm really only just about getting to grips with it.  All my life I have been a map and compass-type person, never happier than when translating what is printed on the sheet of an Ordnance Survey map and matching it to what I could see on the ground.  Even today, with satellite navigation so readily available, I much prefer the old fashioned way and I will happily follow my nose (as it were) between towns, relying on signposts and instinct with the occasional glance at a map.

But there are times when I am more than grateful for the lady hiding behind my dashboard.  Trying to locate a particular street in a strange city is so much easier when somebody warns me, "In 300 yards, turn left", then very soon after, "Take the next left".  Of course, what so many people seem to overlook is that the men and women actually writing out the computer-generated directions (if indeed there are men and women and not just computers) are calculating routes by looking at street plans.  This means that sometimes the driver is told to turn left or right when the road markings really indicate to go straight ahead.  (It's not easy to describe what I mean in words; I should really draw a diagram but that would probably only confuse matters even more!)

Things were much the same 40 or 50 years ago.  Not that sat-nav existed in people's cars back then, but we did have the AA and the RAC and they acted as our sat-navs.  Having said that, I'm not so sure about the Royal Automobile Club; that was for the posh people.  The hoi-polloi like us joined the Automobile Association.  Both the AA and the RAC were, essentially, breakdown insurance services with mobile mechanics riding motorcycle and sidecar combinations.  But the AA, at least, provided a bit more than just breakdown cover.  On request, they would produce written route instructions covering the journey from A to B, via C if wanted.

These route instructions would come as a number of octavo sheets stapled together, each sheet covering part of the requested route.  They must have had hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of these pre-printed sheets from which they would select the ones needed to cover the route requested.  And they were almost exactly the same as the computer generated instructions we can print off our computers from Google maps, Viamichelin etc.

"After 13 miles, turn left at the Dog and Duck onto the B5761, signposted Cheltenham" or suchlike.  Sat-nav?  Huh, been there, done that, got the t-shirt.  The main difference is that the Old Bat never said, "Turn round when possible".  She would say, "Take that road on the left we've just passed".

4 comments:

Sarah said...

SD is still firmly a map man which is fine. The mistake he makes is giving ME the map to read and thinking every time that we will end up where he wants to be ...

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

I prefer a paper map, as well.
When there's time I will research a route well beforehand.

Kay G. said...

I still think a paper map is useful provided the map is accurate!

Brighton Pensioner said...

Sarah, I know EXACTLY how SD feels - but surely by now he should know... Oh, forget it.
Skip, Kay - you're right. A paper map is so much more interesting for cross-country navigation.