GPS -in a time warp

I recently picked up a refurbished Garmin GPS unit (a nuvi 2597, if you’re interested) for an upcoming trip where cell coverage may be spotty (and with a baby in the car, you don;t wanna be lost in the wild.)

So far, I’ve been using Google Maps on my phone.

My first impression – this is like seriously going back in time.

The screen is a touch screen, but so, so laggy and blurry – I think it’s a resistive, not capacitative, and the early ones. It can’t adjust to changing light levels or switch between day and night modes according to sunset time. The battery lasts about an hour, untethered. Graphics are pixelated! When was the last time you saw pixelated if you aren’t into Japanese porn? Animation is jerky enough to be stop-motion. Sunlight on the screen, almost unreadable. Almost a 2 cm thick. Discernible bootup time, including an EULA checkin on every use. No satellite detection indoors. Giant ball-and-socket holder arrangement on the back, so you can’t slip it into your universal cellphone holder – needs a dedicated holder. I haven’t tried the Bluetooth sync, live traffic and stuff yet, and I liked the upcoming turn photo directions, but otherwise pretty… horrifying.

But what’s worse is the realization that a few years ago, technology like this was state of the art. It was killer technology so awesome we would bemoan the fact it was only available in a few countries and gawp enviously if we saw one in action. It wasn’t just technology – it was the equivalent of absolute mastery in a profession like taxi driver or guide, where you literally knew where everything was and how to get there.

Things have come a long way. I can get turn-by-turn directions on my watch now. In almost every way, the Garmin – and every other dedicated GPS – should have been written off as obsolete technology, remnants of a bygone era, except for that one crucial point – can they guide you when the phone can’t? That’s true test. As long as that works, they work.


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