1920s version of GPS!


In response to our post on the 1930s car-based mechanical mapping device, MAKE reader Simon posted a link to this earlier, wrist-borne scroll-map navigator, from the 20s!

Here’s a bit more background on it.

Plus Four Wristlet Route Indicator: Original GPS

1930s answer to GPS

6 thoughts on “1920s version of GPS!

  1. septentriones says:

    I just realized that this would be great for Google maps turn by turn directions. If your are walking through a town or just want your travel directions not to get lost you could use this. Maybe you could print on business cards and avoid having to create the scroll for each sheet.

  2. DanYHKim says:

    One service provided by AAA is customized banner-maps for travelers. Called Trip Tiks, they are designed to be linear and focused maps for your particular trip.

  3. TH says:

    The same concept of scrolling paper was used even earlier during the WWI era to make maps. The Cavalry Sketching Board or Field Sketching Case was like a handheld version of the old surveying plane tables. Two rods were attached to the sides of a wooden board to store a roll of paper that could be pulled across the sketching surface. A magnetic compass, an elevation clinometer, and a straightedge to use as an alidade were built into the device. It also included a leather arm strap so it could be used on horseback.

    In use, the map maker would start at a point and set the compass to the general bearing of the road or trail that was to be mapped. Holding the board steady, he would carefully draw straight lines in the direction of various landmarks visible from his current location. The map maker then moved to a new point, aligned the board in the same orientation using the compass, sketched more lines to the landmarks, and made notes of various features along the trail. Continuing down the road, he would repeat this process many times. After returning to base, the sketch was turned into a usable map by filling in the details. The landmarks were located by finding the points on the map where the sketched lines intersected. The finished map could then be used by itself or combined with other similar maps to cover a large area.

    An example of this device can be seen on this page:

    Original sketching boards like this are quite old at this point and aren’t seen frequently. But they are also relatively simple and any makers interested in the idea could easily produce a similar device.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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