Gettin’ there—


One of the ways I “got” there for about 18 years (1980 – 1997) was Thomas Brothers Book Maps. With my central base in Newport Beach I drove a van around California and Nevada for 60 – 65 thousand miles every year. I loved every minute of work and travel so we won’t talk about that. I want to talk about how to find it…you know– where you’re going.

I had a Thomas Brothers for every county in California, every Island in Hawaii and every big city. Each page in the book was laid-out in their somewhat complicated but unique seventeen (1/2 mile) grids. I would sit in my hotel room at night mapping my next day’s journey. I enjoyed using them…really.
Thomas BrothersEach map book cost around $40, at least in the ‘80s. Thomas Brothers has boarded up shop after wrongfully selling out to Rand McNally who made stupid business decisions with the acquisition and then gave up.

In the mid to late ‘90s I would print out Map Quest directions in my room with a battery operated printer. I was a tech-heavy dude.

A dozen years ago the car GPS systems were popping up. They sucked.

Garmin GPS

I didn’t buy one. My fellow sales reps would cuss them out so I stayed away and kept printing maps, Yahoo Maps were my pick then.

Now I talk into my phone and say where I want to go. I may ask for a coffee, a sandwich and a hotel before I get there, too. The answers come back quickly and spot-on. I have a love-relationship with Google. Their mapping system is genius.

Google Maps started an “under wraps” operation back in 2008 called “Ground Truth.”
They just started talking about it two years ago. The algorithms in this program are extracting map information from “street view” – aerial and satellite imagery covering 51 countries.

Street View is too cool. I looked at my house a few minutes ago. They haven’t driven by since December, 2011. Three years! Come on, man. I’ve trimmed the shrubbery, the trees and painted. I see my car was gone that day. I wonder where I was.

I took Street View to my birth-home in Indiana. Wow! Google Maps drove by and filmed in July, 2013. That’s the month we took my mom to her new home, the nursing home. Now the home has a new owner. That’s a nice view. Just like I remember.

It is a film, you know. Our homes, cars, shrubs, sidewalks are all stars in the “Street View” film of our country. Google Maps is one continuous movie and they cut our address out and present it as a photo.

In a smartphone smack-down this summer, my wife and I matched her Siri with my Android she-bot. We were driving all over the east coast…New York to Florida and back to D.C. We would let the two girl-bots tell us where to turn and when to exit. Android gave Siri a real ass-whoopin.’ Sometimes Siri would have a nervous breakdown and say over and over, Turn here, turn here, turn here….and there wasn’t even a damn street. Google/Android rules on mapping.

One other thing for my special nerd-friends. If you are as curious as me about map-making and the “Ground Truth” program at Google Maps, then I have a newly released video for you.
It is a 40 minute video so have the time set aside. You will love it. It is very cool. After all, it’s Google.           http://youtu.be/FsbLEtS0uls
Google image

About bakoheat

Writer/Musician
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5 Responses to Gettin’ there—

  1. fiddlrts says:

    I grew up in LA, so Thomas Guides were the go-to resource for us as well. I have a cheap knockoff version for LA county that I still use when I need it, although I am more likely to print pages off of Google Maps these days. I am not big on “turn by turn” directions. I would still rather look at the overall picture and plan my own route. But then, that’s how I grew up, and it’s why I believe I could find my way around if the interwebs went down. 😉

    • bakoheat says:

      I’m with you, buddy. We will survive. I use Google Maps. Hope you got a chance to watch the video linked on this post. Two wonderful nerds, bright young guys, do a great presentation on the “Ground Truth” program.

  2. Robert D. Levinson says:

    Enjoyed you’re Thomas Guide. Uh-huh .Did save my butt more than once when I was a field tech. Got a TG from an old, retired trucker . Maps all 50 states but weighs about 20 lbs. Virtual searching on smart phone, easier & lighter.

  3. I still have a Thomas Guide. I can’t do without it because it allows me to find my destination and then look at possible areas of interest along the way to my destination. It’s called exploring!

    • bakoheat says:

      Thanks for writing. Absolutely. I have a suitcase full of old Thomas Brothers books. I loved them. I remember routing a destination and following the map on page 23 and as you went to the top of the page, it might be continued on page 237. Crazy but practical and accurate.

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