Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Take the Next Left

My mum, who was 70 last year, got a TomTom SatNav for Christmas. She spent a good few hours chuntering, as is her nature, about how little she needed a device like this. Several of us tried to explain the benefits and I think we finally at least convinced her that she should at least try it out. She has repeatedly complained over the last six months that since my brother moved recently, she always get lost in the mish-mash of urban motorways, ring roads and confusing dual carriageways that surround Manchester so there was a good reason for giving it to her.

It did however, in my usual lightweight way, get me thinking. This is technology that has I think, finally come of age. Apart from a few stories in the press about giant trucks being led up farm tracks, sat. nav. devices do now appear to work. They may not take you the route you know, or intuitively feel is the right way, but they will get you there. When you suddenly decide you want to go somewhere unexpectedly or just feel the urge to speculatively follow an interesting looking signpost, it'll get you home from there afterwards. Maybe not by the most direct route but you probably wouldn't know anyway.

I used one on a holiday last year. I was in an unfamiliar part of Scotland and I had to find a new golf course every day. It navigated me perfectly through some substantially sized towns, on to the correct road on the other side of the town, and then on to the golf course.

I'm pretty sure they will be a standard fitting in all cars within the next decade. Shortly after that, I'm pretty sure they will be, de facto, essential. Governments will no longer consider good signage on roads is required and it therefore will become increasingly poor. When the older generation - who still navigate on paper and love to argue about the merits of the B449 over the new bypass - complain, the government will have formulated some patronising answer about embracing new technology. The compulsory SatNav in your car is going to be monitoring where yoou're going in oder to calculate your road charges (another inevitability) anyway so you're going to have to have one.

The next generation will be one that does not spend their geography lessons learning how to read a map and another useful skill that was once considered essential, will fall by the wayside.

This might prompt another post regard skills we used to need but are no longer required.....

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