From Simon's Dungeon of Dead Tech.
Back in 1999 I splashed out on this Garmin GPS III+
, costing me the princely sum of £350 on Tottenham Court Road
I could load maps into the device for the countries to which I intended to travel and it had a serial interface, so that I could connect to it from my computer. Both of these features taught me valuable lessons.Lesson 1 - Think before you fly.
I spent five months backpacking around South America back in the day, starting in Cuba. I knew that Cuba had some unusual restrictions so had rented a CDMA cellphone from my cellular carrier, knowing that it was illegal to operate a GSM handset in the country. I also knew about Cuban boatpeople fleeing to Miami but didn't make the connection with my shiny new GPS.
Unfortunately for me, the Cuban police at Havana airport, did.
It was a very long and intimidating hour from the time I was arrested until I was released, during which I had to explain that I was indeed a New Zealander and that it was not at all unusual for a Kiwi to reside in the United Kingdom, while one of the policeman attempted to get his fingernail underneath my passport photograph and accused me of being an American.
Scrotum tightening and sphincter contracting, in fact.Lesson 2 - Keep It Simple, Stupid.
I had this great idea to track my location electronically with my GPS, functionality that we take for granted today but which was pretty cool for a budding young nerd such as myself back then. I connected my GPS to my laptop via the serial port and wrote a script which polled the GPS periodically to get my latitude and longitude coordinates. I then took these two variables and mangled them into a URL which pointed at the site streetmap.co.uk, which I then embedded into my email signature, updated every five minutes.
The result was that email recipients could click on a link in my email to see a map of where I was when I sent it.
I did this for a couple of months, traipsing from home to work with my laptop and my GPS, connecting them up and allowing this automated process to create cool email signatures for me. This was back in the day before WiFi became prevalent, in fact we weren't even calling it "WiFi" we were still using its previous name, "Packet Radio." My laptop didn't even have a WiFi capability so I was only using it in places where I could jack in with an ethernet cable.
Meaning: home and work.
The only places I ever sent email from were home and work.
So I ditched my GPS and replaced the script with one that altered my signature based on the time of day. The location was ALWAYS work during the day weekdays, and ALWAYS home during the evenings or on weekends. I could achieve the same result without a GPS.
Stupid Simon. Stupid, stupid, myopic Simon.