The seduction of satellite navigation

26th January 2007 at 00:00
When they talked, they talked of computers. When they joked, they joked in numbers. "Of course, a 260 is just a 475 with a front end processor tagged on. Arf, arf, arf."

They were the computer freaks I met at university and, despite being fairly proficient in the use of ICT, I would never class myself as one of them. In fact, if anyone says I am a computer freak, I'll sneak into their house and reset their PCs so that, every time they log on, the machine hunts for a WAP encryption key instead of connecting through a USB broadband dial-up modem. Arf, arf, arf.

I lay claim to an honourable history of dismissing a great deal of technology as "interesting, but I don't need it", and a dishonourable history of getting it anyway.

My latest gadget is a Pocket PC with satellite navigation, bought cheaply on eBay. We tried it out one wet Saturday on the way to a Livingston versus St Johnstone clash. "Please turn right," a pleasant female voice (PFV) said at the end of our road. I turned left.

Unfazed, the PFV rejigged the route and asked us to head for a mile along the road and turn right again. This time I complied but ignored the next instruction to take a left. Unruffled, the PFV suggested that I made a U-turn as soon as safely possible.

With no hint of ire, this instruction was repeated several times. Even "make a U-turn now", was said in the same calm tone. When no U-turn was forthcoming, there was a brief lull, then the voice came back with a new set of directions. We were back on a road to Livingston that all of us were happy with.

I love my sat nav. I've discovered, through Googling, that some people have literally fallen for the pleasant female voice and given her a name. I think I might do that too. My only problem is that I don't know which of the calm, patient guidancepupil support teachers I've come across I should name it after. Giving advice and having it ignored. Keeping the heid and trying to steer people back on the right course.

You don't need a GPS antenna hooked up to a PDA with a 266MHz processor and 256Mb MMC card to see where I'm going with this one, do you? Arf, arf, arf.

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