I love my GPS. Back before everyone had one in their car that talks in a variety of voices, I had one with no frills. My first GPS was strictly a direction pointer, little more than a fancy compass. It didn’t even show streets, just direction and distance to whatever waypoint you happened to program into it. It was black and white LCD crystals, like watches in the 90’s. I intended to use it in my ultralight. Fast forward two years, and I bought a second one, because suddenly mapping GPS units were the new thing. It was about 2003, and I got the Magellan SporTrak Map. Still black and white screens, with the cool “indiglo” blue backlight, but now with maps and topographic displays.
The GPS has a whopping 4 Megabytes of internal memory! That’s enough for the streets and topographic information for maybe three or even four counties in South Carolina. Of course, I’m being silly… that’s really not that much now. Sucks for driving, but if you are on a week long hiking trip it’s plenty.
The problme I have, is it uses a serial port. Have you seen one of those recently? No? That’s because no one uses them anymore. Around 2006 they started disappearing in favor of USB holes. I bought a USB-to-Serial adapter back then, but its been so long since I tried to update the maps, I lost the driver. Oops.
So last month I went to Panthertown Valley in NC. I took the trusty GPS with me, and programmed in some geocaches. Between me screwing up the entries and the fact there was no topographic information on the thing, and no one in the group but me are into geocaching – I couldn’t find a single one. I also couldn’t download my track when I got home, so despite leaving the thing on for two days, I had nothing useful.
Determined not to have that happen again, I took advantage of being sick over the long weekend to work on it. I dug out my old cable, and tried in vain to find ANY identifying information on it. Nada, nothing. So I went shopping.
Thank you google.
When I typed in USB-to-Serial adapter, a few images popped up. One was my cable. It has a rather pronounced raised section on the bottom.
Amazingly, Cables-to-go STILL sells the cable through a variety of retailers, and they have downloadable drivers for it right on their web site. Five minutes later I had Magellan’s software set up again, and it FOUND my GPS. It was hard to believe anything computer-related could be so easy. I figured I would be giving up around two in the morning, defeated and frustrated, my GPS “accidently” in the rinse cycle so I can get a new one.
But no, it worked. And it worked well, at that.
So – with that, I fired up its ancient interface, and downloaded my old list of routes. If you’ve ever entered points on a car GPS you know what a pain it can be to do several. Same with clearing them out. On the PC it’s a LOT easier to download them all, edit or delete, and upload the new list. The same goes for map regions. Draw a rectangle, name it, and upload to the GPS.
So – now I can plan another jaunt into the forest. I have several locations picked out, but I might just as well return to Panthertown. I know a little about the area now, it’s pretty close as wooded mountain locations go, and it was fun. Besides, with all the paths, you can walk a great distance and still not be more than a few hours’ walk from the car. My other idea is Standing Indian campground an the Appalachian Trail Loop – but thats an 18 mile commitment I’m not sure if I’m ready to make. I’m probably lazier and slower than some of the people telling me “Go for it! It’s only a three day hike!”
Yes, they make GPS units with full color screens. They make them with giant displays, electronic compasses, barometric altimeters, and gigabytes of memory that will hold street and topographic maps of the whole country. But there’s something to be said for simplicity, ease of use, and a GPS that can go over 14 hours on a set of AA batteries.
So, Technology from 2003, you go… My sportrak is still going strong, and barring a drop in the creek now that its older and has a few cracks, theres nothing that should keep it from going on for a few more years.