1985's Etak, the original in-car navigation computer

Map Happenings posted a retrospective of the Etak, the original in-car navigation computer from 1985. The simple and unambigious monochrome display looks great! Lacking GPS, the technical tricks it used to pinpoint the user's location, such as magnetic dead reckoning, are now "high-end features" of navigation systems.

The second key invention was a 'heading up', moving map display. This meant that the vehicle remained at the center of the screen and the map moved and turned under the vehicle. What you saw ahead of you in the windshield was what was displayed on the screen. This proved highly intuitive.

Third: the Etak Navigator was also the first consumer device to introduce the concept of address search, or what the geospatial industry has come to call 'geocoding'.

Maybe I've just been consuming too much Dune lately but sometimes I like the idea of a bit of light Jihad, e.g. "Thou Shalt Not Exceed 100,000 Transistors On Thy Die."

The original Etak Navigator was a specially-packaged Intel 8088-based system with 256K RAM, 32K EPROM, 2K SRAM, and a cassette tape drive on which digital maps and some of the operating system were stored. The tapes could not hold much information, so for the Los Angeles area, for example, three to four tapes were required. When an edge of the map was reached, the driver needed to change cassette tapes to continue benefitting from the accuracy of map-matching. The system had a tape drive that was designed to be installed within easy reach of the driver, so this could be done while driving. The map moved on the screen as the car was driven, but instead of the color raster graphics display of today's systems it had a green vector display.

Previously: Your old gadgets are likely good enough