Early examples of GPS-type things in movies/TV?
July 23, 2012 9:42 AM   Subscribe

A researcher at my workplace has asked for help finding examples of his topic, early examples of "GIS (Geographic Information Systems) or GPS (Global Positioning Systems) technologies in film and TV", "examples of early precursors to map related technologies". I found someone else's Ask from earlier this year that hits on some likely ones, but he's on the lookout for older and more diverse instances if you can think of any. More details and examples below the fold!

I've already pointed him to this Ask from April, which has examples of War Rooms, Situation Rooms, and The Big Board (including a link to TV Tropes, reader beware).

He could use more examples, though, especially older ones, and going beyond The Big Board. For instance, he mentions that Goldfinger has a "back-lit, moving map in 007’s Aston Martin which is very similar to most in-car GPS devices."

I'll paste an exact quote of his wording below, in case it triggers any thoughts. But my short version would be: Can you think of instances where an early film or TV show uses a device or technique that resembles a primitive version of GIS or GPS tech we use today?

His wording, which he asked me to ask you: "I am working on a paper/presentation that deals with the historical evolution of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) or GPS (Global Positioning Systems)technologies in film and TV. Specifically, I am interested in examples of early precursors to map related technologies that are now common. For example, early police shows have crime locations marked as pins on a map, today there are electronic maps with a multitude of different information associated with each point. Another example would be the James Bond film Goldfinger which has a back-lit, moving map in 007’s Aston Martin which is very similar to most in-car GPS devices. I was wondering if the community had other examples from films/TV that they recall early examples of what are now standard modern mapping or GPS devices. Thank you in advance for any assistance."
posted by theatro to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The best example not mentioned in the other thread was Wim Wender's film, Until the End of the World. We still haven't really got to that conception but I see it for the future.
posted by JJ86 at 9:48 AM on July 23, 2012

TV Tropes: Tracking Device.
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:06 AM on July 23, 2012

How about the travel scenes from Indiana Jones (and its precursors) where the flying airplane route is traced on a map?
posted by OmieWise at 10:15 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The earliest example (not TV/movie) I've found for use in an Intro to GIS presentation is an electrionic wall-map in a firehouse. In this particular case, it points to the location of a certain mischievous primate. From 1941.

Of course, such displays are now ubiquitous in most EOCs.
posted by j_curiouser at 10:19 AM on July 23, 2012

Surely Dick Tracy's TV watch qualifies?
posted by Wretch729 at 10:30 AM on July 23, 2012

does it have to be earth? what about all the tracking computers and graphics in star wars? (death star plans and attack run sequence)
posted by sexyrobot at 11:10 AM on July 23, 2012

in Three Days of the Condor (1975) robert redford's geolocation is traced while he's using a pay phone, in what looks like some spooky map-via-microfilm device that's tied to the phone system. spoiler: he gets away.
posted by garfy3 at 2:29 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

1967's Le Samourai (uh, all of which appears to be on YouTube) features a scene where a network of undercover police officers track a hitman through the Paris Metro, signaling their locations electronically to one big central map.
posted by Smallpox at 6:45 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! I've linked him to your answers, and I really appreciate your help. (Plus now I seriously feel like having a mini film festival...)
posted by theatro at 9:41 AM on July 27, 2012

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