Navigating Without GPS Was Chaos

The GPS (Global Positioning System) device has changed the way Americans navigate streets and highways.

Before the Global Positioning System became widely used by American travelers most of us used paper maps to find our destination.

When traversing the American highways it was almost impossible to drive and read a map at the same time so it was imperative that there be a second person in a vehicle to read the map while the driver concentrated on the directions from the navigator.

It was easy for a navigator to lose their place on the map so they would have to find the right spot on the map again before they could help the driver find the right streets and highways to arrive at their destination.

Thirty seven years ago in 1973 the Global Positioning System was developed that enabled drivers to have a mobile device in their cars to give them directions to their destination. However the GPS was mostly used by the military at first and gradually was used more by civilians over the years.

Some of the earlier models gave only visual directions with no voice to tell them how far they were from the next turn.

Once the human voice was used to give the directions the devices became even more popular as it would give  a warning before a turn was to be made so the driver could be in the right lane.

For instance our GPS gives us a warning about seven-tenths of a mile before an exit off the interstate to give time to be in the proper lane to exit.

Having no sense of direction whatsoever the GPS has saved me many times from getting lost. After moving from a city of about 15,000 to a city of 173,000 we had to rely on maps to go anywhere until we bought a GPS and now if the physical address is logged in the GPS will take us to the destination most of the time.

The reason it works only most of the time is that new highways and streets won’t show up if they are built after the GPS was programmed. For instance we have  a street that was closed off but the GPS still tries to make us drive down that street.

There is a major street in Knoxville, Tennessee that is not even mentioned on the GPS because it was built after the GPS was programmed.

Having a job which involves much driving around the city from time to time the GPS has been a lifesaver. Not having the advantage of growing up in Knoxville and not knowing the city make the GPS even more important as we navigate the city.

If you don’t want to drive on interstate highways it is important to check shortest route to a destination since interstates are built to have exits on major streets. Otherwise the GPS will send you to the interstates no matter how much you want to avoid them.

My favorite feature is when the voice says recalculating when you miss your turn and the GPS will get you back to that street as soon as possible.

The technology involved with a GPS is too much to comprehend. It is hard to believe a satellite in the sky is tracking our destination for us.

GPS technology has made it easier for law enforcement officials to track criminals by installing tracking devices on their cars that lets them know what the criminal is doing.

We have seen many advances in technology over the last few years as cell phones, MP3 players and GPS devices have become more of a part of our lives with each passing year.


Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

2 thoughts on “Navigating Without GPS Was Chaos”

  1. I don’t have a GPS system, probably never will have a GPS system. There is something charming, and nostalgic, about pulling off to the side of the road and looking at a road map.

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