Romping through time, space, and geolocation technology

Earlier today, Chad Orzel, posting about his first bicycle ride with a new multipurpose speed/distance measuring device, wrote: “Why am I posting this? Well, why not?”
I entered a comment below his post, but I’ll reproduce it here. Why? Why not? It’s Saturday night, I’ve already seen the episode of House now airing on the USA Network, and the melatonin has yet to kick in.
When I started running in 1984 at age 14, there were two ways to measure my routes. One was to have my mom drive them. The other — the “sophisticated” way, and the one that was required when dealing with off-road courses — was to take a piece of soldering wire and one of my gradfather’s USGS maps (I was a hella map freak as a lad), bend it carefully along the scaled-down representaton of the path I had taken, straighten the wire out, and lay it against the scale of miles or kilometers to figure out how far I’d run.
A few years later, I got a mountain bike (actually a hybrid) and by then wireless spedometer-odomoeter units were available. The transmitter went on the rim of the front wheel and the receiver/display element on the handlebars. High tech, high tech.
Now, we’re in the personal GPS age, and it’s not just megageeks and heavily committed runners who have Garmin Forerunners and the like — it’s everyone with a pair of running shoes. I coach people over the Internets who send me .kml files which I open with Google Earth to see exactly where in Northern California they ran, how much ground they covered and over what type of terriain, the associated elevation change, and more.
It’s all pleasantly creepy for a guy who once used a 100′ tape measure to “certify” a mile-long stretch of road in his neighborhood (without the help of anyone or anything else with the exception of a heavy rock, thank you very much) and, a few years later, used a gagdetless bike and a similarly crude but cleverish scheme to mark off 1/4-mile intervals on about 15 miles worth of roads in Canterbury New Hampshire — just before the state decided to re-pave Route 132 and obliterate my work.

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