Wednesday, July 15, 2009

SatNav Love

If you're a person of a certain age or above then you'll have definitely seen this happen. It's when technology develops and you look around and observe things that are totally taken for granted now, yet you remember them in the very original and basic form, all those years ago when they were first around.

DD feels like that when he looks at cars. Sadly I get it when I look at mobile phones. Hand on heart dear readers I can recall when they were first around and took up the space usually reserved for a drummer on stage. Chaps would carry them around to show how important they were and a few lucky but less important ones had car phones. Then, us normal people would buy stick on fake aerials to chuck on our car so that people would think we had a car phone. They cost more than a mobile does now.

Most of these inventions stemmed from early episodes of Star Trek anyway. Being an inventor these days must be quite easy, all you have to do is watch what James Tiberius and the crew were using and then make the thing in real life. Piece of piss really.

Satnav is one of these things. I've seen it get invented, get introduced, become cheap and accessible to most and now it's more or less an essential. It won't be that long before every single new car sold has satnav as standard. Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe you guys don't have it in Lanka yet. I'm not clear if that's because the mapping of roads isn't sufficient yet or if it's because of other factors but would very much like to know.

It's brilliant, I tell you. I'm old enough to have done my time with paper maps and that so old fashioned thing of driving while trying to map read, of stopping to ask for directions and getting lost. These days I get in my car, type the address into my Satnav and follow the instructions, either on screen or by listening to the rather asexual sounding woman.

The only negative to it that is that it's hard to get an overall picture of the route you're going to take, if it's a longish journey. That may be something that's changed in newer types and it's not a major thing. I often do a quick map finding thing online if it matters that much, then use the satnav once I'm on route. One can feel a bit helpless just driving and following the turn left at the end of this road instructions without knowign roughly where you're going.

My car, like many in London, is a map free zone. Never do I fret about the route or about getting lost. We have the technology. Or so we thought.

Until last Sunday.

I had a couple of old and great friends with me. It was a quick visit, typically Sri Lankan actually. A phone call to say they were here, can they come and see me. I replied in the affirmative and before we knew it they were with me. A drink, a look at RD Towers, a walk and then a short drive to go and see the 'rents before dropping them back to where they were staying. No problems.

I knew the area they were staying in, knew how to head in that direction but had no local knowledge, not the faintest. We left the parents' house, I asked the address and turned on the satnav to whack it in.

"Please insert DVD" the text said on screen.

My mind, the sharp, quick analytical one that you know I have, jumped ahead several steps, two to be precise. I pressed eject and poked the DVD back in, the same message came up. I tried again, I guess it's the equivalent of shouting at someone who doesn't speak your language to get them to understand. You won't be surprised to hear that still nothing happened.

We drove in the rough direction and I wondered what on earth to do. After some thinking I figured that pulling over and turning the ignition off, waiting a few minutes and trying again might solve things, the ctrl alt del of the car world. That didn't work either.

It became evident that my satnav was well and truly bollocksed. If it was working the woman would have said

"find your own way there, I'm broken"

Though she would have said it in German

"Guten tag, wo ist der rathaus bitte?" I think is the translation. That may be ever so slightly incorrect.

Some phone calls and my vague awareness of how to get us in the general direction ensured a smooth and relatively trouble free journey. It was a rare thing to have to find our own way there, but actually quite easy.

Coming back was different. I was on my own and thought I could go the easier way. It would have been easier I'm sure, if I'd have known it. I ended up going about eighteen sides of a nineteen sided figure, it may even have been nineteen. All I know is that it took me about forty five minutes to get back to where I would have been anyway had I not tried to be smart.

I'm ashamed to say it, but I got lost. As any woman knows we're programmed in such a way that we MUST never ever ask for directions. And being lost without satnav, without even a map in my boot was actually unnerving. Thankfully there was no woman next to me, at least I'm able to keep these things to myself.

It was like being stranded in the Wanni, or being left in Block 2 in Yala suddenly and there's no tracker to be seen. That's what Weybridge is like, real deepest Surrey and perhaps a good twenty minutes from my home. It was frightening, with a capital fright.

The BMW place tells me that the drive might need replacing and I'm waiting to hear how many millions of the Queen's pounds this will cost. It's not good news and I find myself wondering if this technology is worth the cost after all.

Yeaaahhhh. Of course it is.

Isn't it? Maybe I'll just get a map and chuck it in the boot for emergencies.


T said...

you can always just whip out your iphone/blackberry and check mapquest on that no? also, all GPSs i've encountered have 'accent options' and you can give your lady a rather sexy british/australian/american accent if you so wish. what, dont you brits have that options?? ALSO, gps's DO have the option of minimizing the detail on the map so that you can see the overall journey. Time to invest in some new technology RD.

Anonymous said...

I mean it's true isn't it? You guys just don't like asking for directions! But why?


ViceUnVersa said...

Life without one? My family have taken to naming theirs. Gnanawathi (Intelligent Bit) the most popular. my Bill in DC just shamelessly gets lost as he has 'her' to correct him!
The spouse calls ours 'Gnana'.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

T - Well the rather expensive fix on my satnav includes a software upgrade so I hope these things are taken care of with that. Even now (if it was working) I can zoom out to get an overall view, it's just that I can't get a decent general idea when on such a small screen when the image is zoomed out so much for a long journey.

Anon - I think it's just the way we are. No explanation is possible.

DD - GM2U2 - It is a wonder we ever existed without them isn't it?
Satnav I mean, not spouses!

Darwin said...

I use a handheld GPS and it's very handy (heh) as I can plot routes and figure out where I want to go, be it on foot or in a car. So I'm never blindly following directions, I always have a fair idea of where I go. Also, the zoom in/out options help. I'm not too sure how car satnavs work but sounds awfully inflexible compared to the ease of a handheld mapping GPS device.

Jerry said...

You need a newer satnav. Preferably one which uses flash memory for storage.