Which Way Do We Go?

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I used my Google Maps app yesterday. I don’t use it often, and I’m not very adept at using it, but it is handy under certain circumstances. As I was driving along, watching the blue arrow that was me move along the highway, it made me think. What would it have been like to have this handy little device when we were kids?

We used to use something called maps to plot our course on a trip. They were made of paper, and folded up into a small rectangle. You unfolded them to the section you needed, and turned the map this way and that as you traveled to keep track of where you were and where you were headed. We even learned map reading in school as part of our social studies classes. The map showed the highways and towns, and had little numbers to indicate miles between towns. There was also a handy scale of miles to help you determine longer distances, maybe using the first joint of your pinky finger to represent 10 miles on the map. Now it seems rather barbaric, but this was the finest technology we had at the time.

When we would go somewhere, we would get out the map before our trip, and look to see where we were going, and what roads we’d be traveling. It was a lesson in reading, direction, and math. As we traveled, we were constantly calculating how many more miles we had to go. We could tell Dad where to turn (not that he didn’t already know, because he had this amazing sense of direction, even in places he’d never been before.) And, if necessary, we could help calculate where we would need to stop for gas, based on how many miles we had to go, and how empty the tank was getting. As I said, highly technical calculations.

So, as I was following that blue arrow on the Google Maps app yesterday, I wondered what my dad would have thought of such a device. A smartphone. With not only the capability to make calls from just about anywhere, but to also plot your course and show your vehicle on the map as it moved along the highway. Oh. Emm. Gee. And what would it have been like for us kids to use that smartphone to do the navigating, and so much more, as we took those long car rides?

And now, what are the old paper maps used for? Crafts. Yes, people cut them up and make notebook covers, gift wrap, jewelry, and all sorts of other stuff out of them. Or they appear in antique shops. Old relics. It’s kind of sad. I always liked those maps. But I have to admit, I do like that Google Maps app, too, and find the whole gadgetry aspect of it pretty amazing. And, Dad, it’s better than a Polaroid camera! 

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