Did you know that there is a bit of Asteroids in the GPS of your car?

Did you know that there is a bit of Asteroids in the GPS of your car?


Nolan Bushnell will always remember as one of the most influential people in the gaming industry. Founder of Atari, he was one of the main responsible for helping to popularize the media, with its console allowing millions of people to have greater access to electronic games. But Bushnell also tried to explore other markets and one of the ways he found it was with Catalyst Technologies, an incubator born in the early 1980s. It was here that Etak Navigator, one of the first car navigation systems, But what not everyone knows is that the idea taken by them to represent the vehicle on the maps came from an old Arcades / Atari classic.

asteriods gps

The offices shared by Catalyst encouraged to exchange and ideas between companies. [Alan] Alcorn, while working at Cumma , was fascinated by Etak’s activities. During development, he went to the Atari Arcade Division building with the Etak engineers to show them the Asteroids, the success of the arcades. The game used a vector screen that produced fluid animations with low-cost hardware. It was a little surprise then that the final representation of the car on the Etak screen was a vectorized triangle practically identical to the Asteroids spacecraft.

More than 30 years later, that little inspiration from Atari is still alive: many car navigation systems nowadays still use a triangle with a slightly inverted base as a symbol for your vehicle that came straight from the Asteroids.

Fter reading this explanation given in Benj Edwards’ excellent article published on Fast Company website, I have to say that my head almost exploded. Maybe this story is not new, and you already knew where that little set in GPSs came from, but I admit that I had never heard of it, let alone perceived the similarity.
If you understand English, it’s very worth reading the text in question, since we have an excellent look at Nolan Bushnell’s career, but even if you do not do that, at least from now on you will always remember the classic Asteroids when asking for A GPS will take you somewhere.

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Did you know that there is a bit of Asteroids in the GPS of your car?

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