is one of the most unusual computer accessories you will find. It's a portable
Global Positioning Satellite terminal that works in conjunction with DeLorme's
Street Atlas USA 4.0 or AAA Map n' Go Software.
The Global Positioning System, or GPS, is a constellation of 24 satellites that are used to pinpoint the location of the place on the surface of the earth where the GPS terminal is located. GPS terminals are nothing new, but the price of this one is a breakthrough; about $150, including the DeLorme software.
The GPS terminal is a small, bright yellow plastic device about the size of two cigarette packs. It runs on four AA batteries, although a powerpack is available for continbuous use.
To use it, just plug it into the serial port of your computer. A laptop is ideal, since it lets you carry the terminal with you on a trip. It is designed to work on the dashboard of a car, and display the position of the car on a map. Since the software shows maps of the entire USA, you have no excuse for getting lost if you have your Tripmate along.
Just click on a submenu choice called Start Tracking and the GPS terminal will initialize. This takes a few minutes. A red dot appears on the map near where you are located, to indicate a tentative fix. The dot turns green when enough data is received to positively fix your location.
The first time I tried Tripmate, at home, the dot appeared at exactly whwere my home is, even though the outdated DeLorme software didn't show any street there!
You can leave the computer on and the Tripmate terminal running when you travel, and it will display a green arrow pointing in the direction of travel.
Gripes? There is no on/off switch, so you must remove the batteries to turn Tripmate off. However, there doesn't seem to be much battery drain when the termional is not in use. And acquisition os satellites is slow. Otherwise, using Tripmate is a piece of cake.