Sunday, October 25, 2009

GPS, At Last:

For a long time, my wife and I have wondered whether to buy a GPS. Usually, my wife did the wondering, and I did the nay-saying. I’m proud of my knowledge of streets in all the places we drive, and I’m a careful user of Google Maps. Why did I need a GPS?

But times change and at last I began to suspect that a GPS might be good for both of us. Still, we delayed our purchase. With little knowledge of GPS systems, it’s not easy to choose between the $100 kind and the $600 kind. What did we want? We opted for the lower middle, a $230 Garmin 1300T. I’ve done a little local driving with it, and I've used it for a long trip as well. I am totally fascinated at how useful I think it’s going to be. I never suspected!

My wife teased me that most of the benefits I’m excited about are mickey-mouse addons. But still, let me tell you what I’m excited about. Driving long distance, late at night, there's always a danger of getting tired and hypnotized. But the GPS helped me stay alert by showing me more of the geography of the dark regions I was driving through. Another important feature is that the GPS map shows me curves before I reach them. Driving late at night, on the Merritt parkway, say, it really helps to anticipate the curves, making my driving safer.

Okay, on to the bells and whissies.

The 1300T comes with many voices. I can learn a bit of vocabulary by using other languages on familiar routes. (A German voice drove me to work, and a French voice drove me home. I’ll try the French-Canadian voice another time. I’m even going to try Cantonese.)

The GPS can monitor my driving to show me whether I am doing the right things to save fuel.

The GPS can put my current speed or altitude (something that really fascinates me) right on the dashboard, where I can easily peek at it while I drive.

The GPS 3D map gives me context about converging roads, helping me to visualize better where I am. I need this feature even locally, where roads are definitely not straight.

I usually try to stay away from down, downtown Manhattan, where where roads are definitely not in a grid. But with my GPS, I’m not afraid of this locale anymore – I think.

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