Boy Scout Compasses More Useful Than Handheld GPS Devices?

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GPS (Global Positioning Systems) CAN magically tell you where you are, IF you have access to both the GPS signal AND geographical data that translates latitude and longitude into streets or other recognizable landmarks. I have a long  and unsuccessful history with handheld GPS devices. Some years ago I was delighted to find a Garmin PDA (Personal Digital Assistant, remember those?) with a built-in GPS. And it included the geographical data. I wanted to use it to find my way in Japan and other unfamiliar countries or regions.  The problem was that even my seasoned IT consultant was unable to load it with the geographical data (probably because it was too voluminous for the device). Useless! Very recently I bought a Bushnell BackTrack GPS for my direction-challenged wife, partly as a gag gift. Equally useless! My old Boy Scout compass was more helpful. I admit that the Bushnell sounded promising, and it might be useful in some situations. What is wrong with it? Let me count the ways. First, it has a user interface that only a mother could love; its buttons were modal (i.e., they did different things depending on which mode you were in, a no-no so bad that a Silicon Valley denizen had/has a “NOMODES” license plate) making this simple device unnecessarily complicated to actually use. Second, if you try to use it in a city with a lot of even medium-tall buildings, it may not be able to see the GPS satellites so would not work at all. Third, and worst, if you succeed in figuring out how to use it, and mark your starting point, then try to return there, it does not at all remember your route, instead just showing an arrow pointing toward the starting point. That MIGHT be useful if you were in a flat, open area with no obstacles, but in reality you would have to deal with dead-end streets, bridges, etc. in an urban environment or mountains, cliffs, rivers, etc. in a countryside. Despite these shortcomings, this gadget has garnered high ratings on Amazon. We wonder how many of the five-star ratings were from people who really used it.

Pathfinder Bill

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