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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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It is horribly awkward to spell out one’s address, city, zipcode, and the like on the phone. Worse yet, when you give such information to somebody, there is nothing encoded in it to indicate to the recipient where you actually live.

So, I propose a new system. Around the country, mark a number of reference points. First-order reference points could receive letters A through Z, second-order reference points could use double letters.

The initial reference points should be picked near centers of population, but it is recognized that over time they will not all necessarily be coincident with the top centers of population in the future.

Now, in order to locate yourself on the map, you start at the nearest reference point. ‘A’ for example. You calculate the angle of the great circle that would take you from the reference point to your location. 314.27814238, or so, for example. Next, you figure out the distance along that arc one would travel from the reference point to your location. 16.43, maybe. Now, you feed this into a computer, and it figures out how much precision can be truncated from the above numbers in order to provide an unambiguous location. Use will depend on whether you’re trying to route to a building, or just a very specific coordinate in space. In this completely hypothetical situation, that means we can get a location coding of A|314.3|16, a significant improvement over a long address, and it comes with the huge benefit of not only signifying a place, but providing in its encoding a hint (which is to say a specific description) of where the destination is located.

The immediate use is a form of shorthand for address lookup. If I plug A|314.3|16 into my mapping software or in-car GPS, it knows that that’s 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500. But, it’s nice even if you’re navigating on foot, with a map and compass, because it’s easy to spot check whether you’re close or not. Encoded into the notation itself is a way of self-checking progress and whether or not one has arrived at the specified coordinate.

To me, this seems to make much more sense than trying to remember a longitude/latitude coordinate, or a position on a UTM grid. The biggest difficulty is perhaps in the political issues around trying to pick the initial reference points.