PermaLink Atlases, and getting over them04/13/2008 03:31 PM
All my life, I've been a fan of road atlases and maps in general.  I always did well on that part of the Iowa Tests Of Basic Skills where they had you decipher maps, usually centered on Crater Lake.  I always had an atlas on vacation, figuring out where we were going and when we'd get there.  When we stopped for gas, I was the guy going into the gas station office and getting whatever free folding maps I didn't already have.  Gulf had the best ones, with Esso close after.  I can still remember when stations stopped giving out free maps.  It was 1973.  The date at which gas station attendants stopped being able to give directions wasn't so specific.

I realized the other day that there hasn't been a single paper map in my car for more than a year.

Andrew Pollack did a post yesterday asking people, "how often does the internet save your ass," basically. I realized a long time ago that the great potential for the net for me was, never having to rely on other people for information in real time. Directions have always been a very, very sensitive spot in life for me. I was a big fan of a Federal law meting out a $5000 fine or five years in prison for being unable to give accurate directions within one mile of where you live or work, until I realized that we don't have prison space enough for 45,000,000 people.

All my life, I've had maps and atlases. Right now, in the other room, there are three very good road atlases sitting underneath a pile of old documentation and a LaserDisc player. I haven't touched them in at least four years, though I assume one of the cats has probably whizzed on them. It used to be that there was always a Rand McNally Truckers' Road Atlas no older than one year old in the elastic pocket behind the passenger's seat in my car, so that I could pull it out and find just about everything en route.

No more.

Oddly, the availability of internet maps wasn't the beginning of the end for paper atlases around my house. It was DeLorme's Street Atlas USA, on CD-ROM. it was a revelation. Pop the CD into an old Windows laptop, and you could have detailed maps of anywhere, everywhere. That was over ten years ago. Now, of course, I have Apples, and phones and other mobile devices that get me to Google Maps, BlackBerry maps, Yahoo Maps, MapQuest, and practically everything else. Instant directions. Instant accurate directions, none of this "go up here about two miles and turn where the gas station used to be" sort of crap.

And so the net and I are good friends. For the sake of saving me from killing convenience store clerks who can't even explain how they get to work, let alone anyone else, the net is a good thing.

And oddly, I don't miss the Trucker's Atlas.

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