A Trip Down Memory Lane, Using a GPS

by Jay London on June 22, 2012 · 1 comment

in In the News, Modern Geekhood, Remember When..., Transportation, Travel

The Etak Navigaot. Photo: LiPo Ching.

The pre-GPS (global positioning system) days when drivers relied on maps and verbal directions are long gone. For most trips, an in-car navigation system has evolved from a luxury to a necessity, and to some, an afterthought.

While GPS popularity is a phenomenon from the past decade, the first publicly available automobile-navigation system, the Etak Navigator, first came to market in the mid-1980s. Over 25 years later, it’s believed that only one functioning Navigator still exists.

It’s located in the Toyota Camry of Jon Landes, a former Etak software engineer, who installed it in his car in 1989. Alongside Tristan Thielmann, an MIT visiting associate professor, Landes recently took the Camry for a spin, using the Navigator to guide its journey. According to Landes and Thielmann, the Navigator’s direction was accurate and precise.

View a slideshow of their journey from The Mercury News.

To call the Atari-looking Navigator–which retailed for about $1,500 in the late 1980s–a GPS would be a misnomer, as it does not use satellites to position itself in space.

From The Mercury News:

“Instead, it uses ‘dead reckoning,’ comparing the car’s location to a fixed spot. Landes’ system includes a compass affixed in the rear of the car, a central-processing unit about the size of a large loaf of bread, a series of cassette tapes that contain the digitized maps, and a choice of two green vector monitors, one large and one small. Inside the rim of the wheels is a series of magnetic beads that feed information to the computer about how fast the car is going, when it is turning, and so on.”

Thielmann, who studies mapping and media and is writing a book on the rise of navigation systems, recorded their journey in hope that the footage will be part of the evolution of media technology.

Does anyone remember the Etak Navigator, or know anyone who paid $1,500 to have it installed in their car? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jennifer April 30, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Well there may be 2 now… we just picked up a car and it has an Etak in it with manual and receipts, looks like it works 🙂

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