Saturday, January 02, 2010

Maps an obsolete technology?

Silicon Alley Insider recently listed 21 Things that Became Obsolete this Decade. (Guys, the decade isn't over yet.) Among them were PDAs, paid-for email accounts, VCRs, and a number of other items.

While I generally agree with these guys, I was very surprised they listed maps as an obsolete technology. They seem to think everyone can now navigate with a GPS or smartphone. While these technologies are certainly more helpful at times than a paper-based map, they aren't without their faults.

Believe it or not, sometimes GPS will give you bad directions. Just ask Michael Scott.

And it's not always available. On a recent trip to Louisiana and Dallas, I used the GPS on my Archos 5 Internet Tablet for the first time. There was a period of 3 hours where the GPS could not pick up a signal. And we were driving major highways the whole time! Without a map, I would have been forced to pull off the road and ask directions. Gasp!

Google Maps isn't perfect either. Google Maps suggested I take a road that didn't even exist as a shortcut to my parents' new home a few months ago. And before that, Google Maps told me my friend's house was 5 miles north of Fayetteville when it was actually south of the city.

And have you ever tried to get a good overview of the road system for a large city using a small screen? Impossible. A paper map that is 10 times larger than your tiny screen makes it significantly easier to figure out the highway system.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think we should throw away or newer navigation technologies, I'm just suggesting that the good 'ol map is still quite handy.