I admit it, I’m a map geek. I guess, I’m just a geek and maps are another symptom. I’d be that guy sitting around in a dark office with a big screen and big wide eyes, flying around surveillance cameras and satellite feeds looking at things from outer space.
I’m fascinated with things like borders. That feeling of “Otherness” that exists because someone drew a line somewhere and said “This is mine, that is yours” always fascinated me. Growing up in South Jersey, state borders were irrelevant except for car number tags. TV, Radio, and Media came from Philadelphia, and “local” was Cherry Hill which was too small to ever hit the news when I was small.
The view from the 295 near the baseball fields near where I grew up.
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Franklin Square in Center City Philadelphia. You never really “went” there. It’s kind of cut off from the rest of the world in Philly but you can hover over the place. I don’t remember that fountain from when I was last there, probably in the 90s.
These days, I can endulge my inner Cartographer by playing with either Google Maps, Bing Maps, or perhaps one of the others. One of the first things I do when I am trying to find a place is to go online, plot the address and zoom in as tight as possible. In cities and towns in the US, I have found very few places on a street that I can’t stand virtually on the ground and look at the building and spot in question.
Other places, not so much.
When you zoom in on certain areas outside of an Urban zone, the detail gets fuzzy. After all, from a satellite, one tree pretty much looks like the next. You can expect a minimum resolution of 15 meters or 50 feet as a default, roughly. That means that one of the dots on your computer screen will represent an object or area of 50 feet by 50 feet or 15 meters on a side.
Pretty much anywhere I was thinking to look within anything as small as a small town at random had “useable” resolution. If I wanted to see the downtown of a small midwest farm town, Stanton, Nebraska, it was easy enough to do.
In cities it can get better. The Czech Republic can go as high as 1/10th of a meter on a side which is 3.9 inches. That’s pretty respectable resolution all things considered. It gives you the excuse to explore Prague from the comfort of your own easy chair. A beautiful city, well worth poking around.
The view of the Prague Castle in central Prague is the above view, and that is without dropping that little man on the street.
The thing is that these graphics are getting much better. Barring some self-important fool having their property fuzzed out, for the most part you can see just about anywhere from the air to some detail.
Viewing street level things are a different story. Germany recently said “nein” to street view, and I seem to remember that they turned it off in Google Earth and Maps.
On the other hand, now I’ll have to dust off my older computer that I have Google Earth installed on. There’s an inherent creepiness about Google’s software that I don’t care for. You have to basically tell them what you want to look at on the map. Part of the game. I’m just not completely sure that all that information is something I’d prefer to share with them.
While the software and use are free, there is one thing to consider:
You aren’t the paying customer.
If you aren’t the customer, you are the product.
So if you are comfortable being a product, your map playground has just gotten a bit more interesting. You can always do things like walk along the Quays in Port of Spain, Trinidad for no reason at all.