Paper maps: On the brink of extinction?
When’s the last time you used a paper map to get around? These fold-out navigators used to be the go-to tool for travelers and direction seekers, but now, with the latest advances in technology, paper maps are a joke to most of society.
“Actually, I have not ever seen one,” said Kevin Smith of Edison, scrolling through the free map application on his smartphone. “I pretty much use my phone for any type of traveling.”
Smith suggested he wasn’t “born in that generation” of paper maps. And he’s on the right track. During our informal polling of New Jersey residents, it seemed the older the respondent, the more likely he or she was to rely on the good ol’ paper map.
Heather Mann of Little Egg Harbor has tried her phone or car’s GPS to get around, but said nothing matches the power of the real thing, which she’s been using for decades.
“You see the entire state in front of you, whereas with the GPS you only see a small section, a subset,” she said. “I get lost all the time with a GPS.”
Convenience is obviously the major reason most people use their phones instead of a paper map to get from one place to the next, but dependence on technology isn’t always the best or smartest route.
“Using GPS, whether it’s on your phone or a standalone handheld device, it depends on being able to get the satellite signal,” said Michael Siegel, staff cartographer of the geography department at Rutgers University.
Siegel said it’ll be a long time before we stop seeing distribution of paper maps at gas stations and rest areas. Just like books and magazines, these maps can survive in a “paperless” society.
And certain maps, such as some used for hiking, have not yet been translated into a reliable digital format.
Siegel said “it can’t hurt” to have a paper map in your car, even towed away in the trunk, just in case of an emergency.
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