By Tom Kando
I just spent a month in Europe, mostly visiting my 98-year old mother who lives an hour North of Amsterdam, and helping her with this and that. I took my Garmin with me, with the Eurochip. Over there, they call GPS “Tom Tom.” Different brand, I guess.
This technology is miraculous and hilarious. For example, I took my mother down to Belgium for a couple of days. For the first time in my life, I drove around Europe without even a map in my car as a backup.
That the Garmin could accurately guide me down the major freeways and turnpikes to the large cities was expected. But what blew my mind is that it also knew every single back alley of every hamlet in every country! For instance, I once took the wrong exit off a major turnpike somewhere in Belgium. In order to get back on track, I had to meander through a maze of tiny rural streets. The Garmin knew every single one of them, guiding me accurately towards my destination.
Amazingly, the Garmin even knows specific addresses. For example, we approach my friend Wilfried’s house on 227 Lomburg Lane, in the tiny Belgian town of Hersault. And somehow the machine knows that this house is 550 feet from where we are driving!
I suspect that it would be the same in Calcutta or in Sao Paolo. I am usually not a fan of fancy technology, but this is truly impressive.
I also smile when I realize that the whole worldwide GPS system is in the hands of the US Army in Colorado. It runs on 36 satellites. So America is not entirely washed up, yet.
We call the lady who talks to us through the Garmin “Mary.” Mary is funny sometimes.
Of course, all the GPS jokes have already been made a thousand times, about arguing with your Garmin, telling her/him to go to hell when you deviate from her commands, when she “recalculates,” etc. I am usually a Johnny-come-lately to new technology. But here are a few funny things:
When we hit the road to Belgium and “Mary” began to talk to me, I replied something like:
“No Mary. That’s not the right way! You don’t know what you are talking about!”
My mother cautioned me to be polite and not to get into a fight, thinking that I was talking to a live woman.
Also, we have the machine set on English. In non-English places, Mary has trouble with pronunciation. For example, somewhere in Belgium, we had to drive down King Boudewijn Avenue. To Mary, this became King Boodahweejn Avenue. I had no idea what she was talking about, but fortunately, the screen also spells out street names.
And for some reason, even though Mary is English, she also mis-pronounces English names in foreign countries. I suppose she has to mispronounce consistently. For instance, we had to take Martin Luther King Boulevard somewhere in Holland, but to her this was Marteen Looder King.
Oh well, Mary is a lot of fun, and GPS is a miracle. leave comment here
Friday, April 29, 2011
By Tom Kando