Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Why Phoenix old-timers resent GPS, maps, and compasses


If you're like me, and feel a twinge of resentment when someone starts using their GPS to navigate around the town you love, which for me is Phoenix, relax, it doesn't necessarily mean that you hate technology. It just means that you love your town. And to test that theory, all you have to do is do a little time-traveling. Let's go!

Although maps and compasses were common in the days of old-time Phoenix, my best guess is that most long-time locals would have resented their use the a same way that old-timers nowadays dislike seeing someone use GPS. And it has to do with effort, and affection. That is, memorization, or in other words, "learning something by heart".

When you genuinely care about something, you don't need to refer to anything. You don't need notes to remember the name of your home town, you don't need a map to find the street you grew up on, you don't need a compass to get there. You just know. You know it by heart. It's an emotional connection.

So that twinge of resentment when someone uses some type of technology that replaces that memorization is perfectly normal. It's why you get a little crazy at people who can't pronounce the names of things in your town. Maps don't come with pronunciation guides, and the GPS voice is often so bad it's laughable. It's like hearing someone mispronounce your name, or the names of the people that you care about. It can make you laugh, or cry, or even become angry.

I love technology, and was an early adopter to computer graphics and the web. I'd like to think that I would have been that type of person in any era, embracing the wheel when it was invented, or being the first person on my block to have electric lights (if I could afford that!).

So yes, you could drop me into Phoenix in the 1890s and with a map and a compass I could find my way around, possibly better than some people who had lived there all of their lives. But I would be missing the one thing that they have: heart.

Image at the top of this post: Looking west on Washington towards 2nd Street in the 1890s, Phoenix, Arizona. No GPS, map, or compass needed for the old-timers.

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