Harry Cline 1

October 3, 2009

3 Min Read

No one can label me a techie.

I can get around on an old-fashion flip cell phone. I use a “SmartPhone” Treo to check e-mails away from the computer.

However, that is about my wireless technology comfort level. I have written many articles on precision ag technology and understand how GPS has saved farmers millions of dollars. Yet, I have not, until now, personally experienced GPS. In setting up a farmer interview I asked for directions. The grower replied he could give me his farm's GPS coordinates. Sorry, not there yet. Just tell me how many miles south or north and where to turn right or left.

GPS, fortunately or frighteningly, is now part of my world. My cash-for-clunker new wheels has a navigational system. My life is now in other, invisible hands.

Recently my wife and I traveled Southern California in our new car. (I don't want to advertise what it is, except to say it is a Chevrolet. It is not a pocket rocket that gets 90 miles to the gallon and is plugged in every night. I am still a bit fearful Sen. Feinstein will send Department of Transportation lawmen to repossess it since it would not likely fit her cash-for-clunker criteria.)

I read the navigational system manual (while sitting in the driveway) and dialed in where we were headed. First turn out of the driveway I went the wrong direction. I was scolded by “The Voice.” Couple more “wrong turns,” according to the navigational system and the chastisement continued. “It” was not happy I had to go to the bank before leaving town.

My wife has long been my navigational system. She has this thing about paper maps. When I make the wrong turn according to my old (sorry dear) navigational system, the wife scolding is not nearly as ominous as “The Voice.”

We eventually left Fresno headed in the “right direction,” according to “The Voice.” At lunchtime we called a live person via OnStar to get directions to a restaurant in Bakersfield. I had OnStar in the clunker so I knew how it worked (push button and talk). Rather than mess up the navigation system programmed to the Southern California destination, the live OnStar lady downloaded directions into the car. They appeared instantly on the instrument panel. My old OnStar did not do that. I had been technologically commandeered.

After lunch, we drove south on Highway 99 and “The Voice” was happy again. We were headed to a destination on Highway 1/the Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County. “The Voice” kept telling me to take every exit off 405 to go to Highway 1. I did not want to get off of 405 and drive a day and a half down Highway 1. It is quicker to go via the freeway.

“The Voice” did not know that and became so irritated that it told me to make the next available U-turn. Off 405 near LAX? Make a U-turn from the busiest moving parking lot in America?

“The Voice” and I were not getting along so I turned it off. I was in control again, I thought. As my wife and I visited, I found myself talking softly — like in not wanting to be overheard. We were the only people in the car! I was afraid “The Voice” might hear me and get upset.

Technology is challenging for old-timers.

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