Showing the Way
Mechanical in-vehicle navigation systems anticipated the GPS by eight decades. By expanding the motorist’s geographic range, the automobile spurred demand for the strip map, a niche opened up by bicycle touring in the late nineteenth century. One inventor attached a strip map to a pair of rollers in a rigid frame mounted on the handlebar and showing only the most immediately relevant part of the route. Another attached a scrolling device to a car’s steering column, and others made scrolling automatic with a flexible cable attached to a wheel. Enhancements included warning bells and verbal directions from a phonograph mounted under the dashboard. Most of these patents were never developed commercially, and the market dried up around 1920 because of improved signposting and better roads.