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The Unexpected Humor in Technology

Technology can be fun. No I’m not talking about computers per se or games on an iPhone, no, I’m talking about how electronics try to talk to us and botch it.
I’m on my…4th GPS I believe, a Garmin Nuvi 750 I got 3 or so years ago, still works great. Most newer GPS units will speak directions to you and the way they attempt to pronounce street names can be anything from mildly amusing to absolutely jaw dropping hilarious. I’ve had a few times I’ve created bogus points of interest just to see how my unit would pronounce a name, it can’t say my daughters name, Anastasiya, without a major exercise in creative spelling.

One of the most interesting parts of speech for a GPS is abbreviations. I live in Texas, near Houston and here we don’t generally have county roads, abbreviated CR. Here we have Farm to Market roads abbreviated FM. I was taking my daughter to school one day that was located on FM2351. The first time I asked the GPS to guide me there, I wasn’t really paying attention, it spoke. Something was off, but I’d looked at the screen and ignored what I believed must have been something I misheard, then it said it again, “exit at Federated States of Micronesia 2351!”Wow, I was learning geography, who knows that the correct abbreviation for Micronesia was FM, unless you’re from that corner of the world.

Last week I was traveling in Northern Louisiana and it did another one of these funnies. They don’t have counties in Louisiana, they have parishes, so parish roads. You guessed it, “turn left on Puerto Rico…” I’m guessing that the fine folks at Garmin never realized the geographic games their units would play with their owners.

Routing can be an adventure too. On my last unit, a GPS V, I regularly had the unit want to route me through…lets see, cemeteries and other places most people don’t normally think of as short cuts. All it saw was road, road that it believed was quicker.

Each generation seems to be a little smarter, a little more intuitive. My Nuvi didn’t even come with instructions and you know what, it didn’t really need them, it was so intuitive! I’ve seen people who were flummoxed at these, but it’s because they don’t read the screen and think about what they want it to do. Apparently idiot proof doesn’t work intuitively for people with intelligence lower than that of an idiot.

I saw the new unit I want, think it’s a Nuvi 1490, something like that. Half as thick, twice as smart and still about the $450 I paid for the 750 a few years ago. I travel a lot so can actually justify a lot of the extra bells and whistles the casual, around town or once a year trip to Disneyland, user could never justify. My kids will inherit the Nuvi 750 once the budget allows for a new purchase.

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