brass GPS wrist navigator


We just came across this truly awesome GPS navigation idea – without the use of any satellites actually – brought back to life by asciimation. The idea is the same as the Plus Fours Routefinder we mentioned a while ago.

…The knobs on the end were made from acorn nuts and a piece from a binding post screw… The directions are printed out onto a 35mm wide strip of paper and then simple taped and wound onto the scrolls… To load the device you unscrew the knobs and insert the scroll into the watch ensuring the paper slides nicely through the slot in the left hand end….

Of course the project was a lot easier these days thanks to Google Maps where you can print out a list driving directions. All you have to do is some editing so it fits the paper roll and looks decent.

antique GPS system from 1930s

What you’re looking at here is probably one of the first in-car GPS navigation systems in the world; designed in 1930’s. Of course it is probably better to call this map guidance tool since this device had nothing to do with giving directions or geostationary satellites.

(Possibly) called Iter Avto, this tool scrolled through a paper map depending on the speed of your vehicle. And if you ever wanted to make a turn into a new street you’d have to find the scroll paper for that street and quickly swap it in.

Very similar to Plus Fours Routefinder first used in the U.K. about a decade ago.


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Plus Fours Routefinder


Invented in 1920’s this could be world’s first navigation system. No satellites or digital screens were used in the making of this portable navigation system.

Called Plus Fours Routefinder, this little invention was designed to be worn on your wrist, and the “maps” were printed on little wooden rollers which you would turn manually as you drove along.

The device was intended to allow drivers to navigate around the UK, but with so few cars on the roads it never really took off.

Now consigned to the scrap heap of history, the Routefinder is one of many gadgets patented by inventors who were hoping to strike it rich with their bizarre contraptions.

It’s part of a collection of weird and wonderful inventions, all conceived between 1851 and 1951, which have gone on display at the British Library in London.

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