Washington DC metro area information architect and occasional blogger, with interests including personalization, the paradox of the active user, social apps/media, mapping and wayfinding, and rich Internet applications.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008


GPS Luddite

I love new web sites and gadgets. But the one thing I really haven't been able to get behind is GPS navigators. When I first moved to Rockville, MD, my parents loaned me their Magellan. I used it a little bit, and then I spent an extended period of driving, mildly panicked, around Potomac, while the Magellan attempted, unsuccessfully, to connect to the satellite. Eventually, I retraced my steps until I found the interstate, and thus am not still driving around Potomac, waiting for the thing to connect. The Magellan stayed in its bag until I gave it back to my parents.

Aside from the fact that it failed me miserably in Potomac, I didn't like the way I drove when it was attached to my windshield. I spent a lot of time watching the little Magellan screen that I should have spend watching the road, and a lot of time tensely waiting for the Magellan's next direction.

When my mom asked if I wanted a GPS navigator for Christmas, I said no (yes, I was quick to suggest a replacement gadget — an external hard drive — that I would actually use). I told her I was perfectly happy with Google Maps, which have never gotten me lost. I print the paper directions (admittedly, I am thinking about going to the mobile solution, to be a bit more green and flexible on the go), I reset the trip odometer at each intersection, and I watch the road the rest of the time.

Obviously, though, there are a lot of people out there who have really embraced GPS devices. It makes me think a bit more about this article, and whether my dislike of GPS devices has more to do with whether I flat-out don't like the technology, or I just don't like the way it works currently. If the "turn left in point five miles" voice spoke only when absolutely necessary, and there was no tantalizing screen of exactly-where-my-car-is-right-now to look at, I might be quicker to embrace it. Then again, what's the difference between that and my Google Maps directions, aside from a couple hundred bucks?

posted by Carrie G  # 2:59 PM