Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Life without GPS

Do you remember what it was like not to have driving directions at your fingertips? I started thinking about those days when I drove to a new location for an appointment then afterwards needed directions again to find a bank branch nearby.

I had quite a few hiccups with the GPS because it was dark and rainy all day, which caused the signal to keep dropping right in the middle of telling me where to go. I was getting extremely frustrated until I remembered what it was like to get directions in the past.

When I was growing up in the 70s, my parents would call someone to get directions then write them down. If they got lost along the way they would either stop to use a payphone to call the person or ask someone standing on the street to direct them. It was the same thing in the 80s - at least for me it was, and somewhere in the early 90s I got my first computer and opened the door up for finding info on the World Wide Web. Sometimes I could find the addresses of major companies and businesses, but a lot of the time a phone call would still need to be made. You remember those times, right?

And still I would get lost - probably two times out of five.

It was 1995 when I purchased my first cell phone. I would still get lost, but at least I could call someone from my car to assist me. No more getting out of my car in shady neighborhoods or riding around searching for the elusive phone booth. Around the same time, if I remember correctly, MapQuest came on the scene. It seemed to be a dream come true. A way to get directions and arrive at your destination without getting lost. Well, it didn't work that great in the beginning (I'm sure many of you remember encountering a dead end or a mysterious road the free service didn't warn you about) and by the time they got some of the kinks out there were other sites offering travel directions.

Now here I am, more than a decade later, with a fancy Android phone that will activate on voice commands and give me step-by-step directions. All I have to do is input the address or click the address in my phone book or on a business's website, and in less than a minute I'm on my way.

There are times, like the other day, when even those technological advancements get a little wonky and you're I'm left frustrated and thinking of the simplicity of times past. Wait. one. minute. What am I thinking? There was nothing fun about getting lost then searching for a phone booth and having to get out of the car - sometimes in inclement weather - to make a call. Let's not even talk about searching for quarters.

Although we may get frustrated with dropped signals and other inconveniences, we have to admit having a cell phone with GPS, or one installed in your car, has made life easier. The next time I'm following my GPS directions and the signal drops or I can't find an address immediately I'm going to remember I could be driving in the rain, in an unfamiliar area while looking for a pay phone.

Do you rely on your GPS to get you places?