Improbably enough, I am in Sebastopol, CA for O’Reilly’s Foo Camp 2007. With me I brought Clive, my Garmin Nuvi GPS. Clive is a British male text-to-speech implementation. Last week in Oxford I noted that a male taxi driver had selected a female voice for his GPS. I’m sure someone at Foo has written a white paper on this topic already.
I like Clive because his voice and manner are soothing and authoritative. I want to believe that my navigational system knows where it’s going. Like a man, it should never ask for directions. So far, I trust my GPS. It has not let me down before. Thus I was a little surprised upon leaving SFO this morning when it went, as Clive would say, a little daft.
I wanted to stay on 101 North but Clive wanted me to turn left onto a different highway. Normally I will bow to the reassuring tone of Received Pronunciation and do what he says, but he wasn’t inspiring confidence:
“IN 500 FEET TURN LEFT ONTO ROUTE THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY. TURN LEFT ONTO ROUTE THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY. APPROACHING LEFT TURN ONTO ROUTE THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY. IN 500 FEET TURN LEFT ONTO ROUTE THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY. IN 500 FEET TURN LEFT ONTO ROUTE THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY.”
And so on. I yanked out Clive’s power, got on 101, and drove for a few minutes while letting him, I dunno, settle down. When I plugged him back in he was prim and respectable again. At that moment, traffic on the eight-lane highway ground to a halt.
Welcome to California.