G.P.S. 1962 Style

12 Sep

A valiant attempt to solve a challenging problem but perhaps a little bit too far ahead of the curve. This is from February 1962 Popular Science:

Robot Tells You Where To Go

DRIVING North on the New Jersey Turnpike, you roll into a service station near Woodbridge and ask the way to a New York airport.
“A machine inside,” says the attendant, “will give you printed directions.”

On a wall is an alphabetical list of places and major highways, from Aqueduct Raceway to Zoo, Bronx. You press the button with the number of your destination. A sign lights up: “Machine in operation.” In seconds a slip of paper drops out. It tells you the route you’ll travel, and lists any exits, highway numbers, forks, and traffic circles that concern you. It may warn you of a lower speed limit on some stretches; or ask you to press another button for directions to an in termediate point or highway, and then tell you how to go on from there. You pay nothing. The trip slips are yours to take along.

Road queries at this Cities Service station are so heavy that the company employs uniformed girls to take the load off gas-pump attendants. Now the Directomat, first machine to give highway information, not only eases their job but stays on duty after the girls go off.

  • Wheel-mounted memory bank turns, picks out needed information; mechanism prints it on the spot.

A modest, soft-spoken man who was a member of the French underground at one time, Dr. Tamir shrugs when credited with inventing the machine. “I had much expert help,” he says. But it was he who saw embossed addressing plates as the solution to printing information on the spot. They cost little, can be changed in a jiffy when information is obsolete. Hung on rods around a wheel are 120 such plates. Push a button and the wheel turns, the plates flipping over as they crest the downward-turning side. A network of relays and solenoids stops the wheel with the stencil bearing the desired information at the bottom.

  • Embossed answer plates are hung around the wheel on horizontal rods. Studs on the wheel trip microswitches to select one of four quadrants, then one of five sectors in that quadrant, finally one of six plates on that sector, stopping wheel with the right plate at the bottom.

Permanent magnets hold it in line with an upright arm. The arm, moved by an electromagnet, in turn moves the plate out of the storage line into printing position before a platen. The sequence timer now energizes another magnet that shoves the platen and plate against an inked ribbon with the paper behind it. It works fast; average time after you punch a button is 10 seconds. It varies with the position of the desired stencil in relation to the last one used, which determines how far the wheel must turn.


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