Friday, 11 September 2009

The old versus the new

So, this week we've done a cross-country trip to enjoy a few days relaxing in a spa in Wales. Lovely. Robert decided to take his uber-trendy Sat Nav. I refused to leave the house without a map of the whole country. You know, a real map - made from paper. With little elephants on it to show where the zoos are, and little turrets to show you the castles. Wonderful.
I'm old fashioned, apparently. Sat Navs can show you the nearest petrol station, accomodation, place to buy a Mars Bar. The wonders of modern technology can plan your whole route for you, and all you do is follow the instructions on the little screen. How uninspiring. How uninvolved. By Robert's own admission, it makes driving 'like a computer game' where he can see the next bend and how the road lies to judge speed. Great. Nothing like reading the actual know, just in case the technology gets it wrong and you go headlong into a ditch...
Of course, maps can be wrong too, and frequently out of date (mine was from 2002 and lacked many roundabouts we encountered) but what I like about them is the innate sense of direction they foster. Even at an unexpected roundabout, you're not circling it madly trying to identify the road number you require whilst the Sat Nav nags you robotically, you can take the turning that is signposted by (God forbid) an actual place name, or, even worse.....a compass point. Because on a map, the country is spread out before your eyes, not reduced to a tiny portion of screen showing the miniscule section of road you are currently inhabiting.
I was able to point out distant hills and mountains, naming them aloud and announcing their height above sea level. I could mention when we were passing Twycross Zoo or Donnington Park. On the way home, looking for an adventure, I could spread out my map and see related distances, route possibilities, places of interest, all at once. A bit easier than attempting to program the Sat Nav to display tourist attractions whilst flying along the motorway in the fast lane. Eventually, the machine decided to take us off the motorway and onto a local roundabout, before directing us straight back to the motorway, for no apparent reason. Then attempted a close-to 30mile detour as he'd set it to avoid toll roads. One thing a machine will always lack is common sense.
Starting to distrust the machine, when close to home and desperate for a break, Robert asked me how far it was to the next services. Working on a lovely 1 inch/3 miles scale, I approximated the distance. Meaning not only could I determine our exact position without the aid of a satellite, I could look forward on our journey far enough to locate the next cup of coffee, and using a highly technical finger-segment-measuring system, I told him 'About 14-15 miles away from here' As if to prove me wrong, he prodded the Sat Nav screen a few times, and grunted.

'Hmmm, yes. 14.8 miles'

Half the fun is getting lost, anyway.

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