Paper beats Sat-Nav

Gayle celebrates a triumph of map over machine

In a gratifying triumph of man over machine, a trial by Computing Which? magazine has shown that consulting a printed map is a more efficient way of getting to your destination than using a SatNav system.

Three different systems were tested against the low-tech piece of paper, and the paper won.

In-car satellite navigation systems have been trumpeted as the easiest way to plan the route from A to B, and an end to wrong turnings, dead ends and fruitless driving around in circles.

Many people swear by them, despite the continual drip feed of stories about SatNav systems which direct heavy lorries down minor roads, send tourist coaches to get stuck down narrow lanes or guide cars into impassable fords, leaving them stranded in deep water.

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My objection to SatNav is simple; I don't agree with the principle of allowing a machine to make decisions for you.

Computers are wonderful (when they work) and I wouldn't be without one at home or at work. But not for nothing are they called electronic idiots.

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Computers just do exactly what they are requested. That is why expressions like GIGO (Garbage In/Garbage Out) and PICNIC (Problem in Chair Not In Computer) were invented. Computers are only as good as the information that is fed into them.

A story which surfaced on the same day as the SatNav test illustrate this neatly . A mother and two children spent two hours waiting for an AA patrol to attend their broken down car, only to be told that no-one would be coming out because the road she was stranded on did not appear on their mapping system.

Anyone who uses a computer to find places or postcodes will know how frustrating it can be trying to get the system to recognise a particular address until you manage to put it in a format the computer can recognise.

I frequently use the Multimap site, which is extremely good at providing detailed maps of any given location which can be printed off free, but ideally you need the postcode to be sure of finding the street/building.

Obviously, I haven't got SatNav myself, but I know people who have. A relative told me about their first journey with SatNav in the car, heading for a place they knew well.

As they turned out of the drive, the computer started telling them they were going the wrong way, insisting they should turn round at the earliest opportunity and go back, until they had to turn it off to silence it.

If you consult a map, you can make your own mind up which way to go and, if you are visiting more than one destination, which order would be most convenient.

Some people claim to be unable to read a map.

A straw poll in the office reveals that many of those people are men - and men are also notoriously unwilling to stop the car and ask for directions if lost.

Perhaps they need to spend a bit of time learning to read maps - and reclaim their independence from cyber slavery.

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