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"I think we're still on that topic, still trying to figure out what computers are, how they change us, why we use them."
- Neal Stephenson

Cartograph  
  A device that shows you a record of your travels - a GPS readout.  

Marooned on Neptune (the icy part that the planetary engineers had not remade into usable farmland), Bob Star and his companions seem lost. But are they?

He reached to unsnap the cartograph from his belt. He had brought that tiny instrument to map their movements. He opened the cover and peered at the strip.

"We're nearly seven miles from where the prison used to be," he said thoughtfully.

From The Cometeers, by Jack Williamson.
Published by Street and Smith in 1936
Additional resources -

How might this amazing device be constructed without a network of GPS satellites? Williamson was probably thinking about using intertial guidance systems to indicate position; I haven't read about anyone who had thought of providing a read-out of path.

The basic idea behind inertial guidance systems is simple. Take a set of gyroscopes and set them in a known direction; if left to float freely, they will continuously indicate true direction. Then, use accelerometers to determine motion. These systems have the advantage of not relying on outside signals (which could be jammed); however, they are prone to cumulative errors.

Gyroscopes have been used to indicate direction on ships since the early 1900's. Rocket scientist Robert Goddard theorized that they would be useful in rocketry. The first successful inertial guidance systems were used in V2 rockets in the mid-1940's by German scientists. Read more about inertial guidance systems.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Cometeers
  More Ideas and Technology by Jack Williamson
  Tech news articles related to The Cometeers
  Tech news articles related to works by Jack Williamson

Cartograph-related news articles:
  - GPS Shoes Track Alzheimer's Patients
  - Location History Dashboard By Google
  - Menlo Device By Microsoft Tracks You Precisely
  - Google's Cartographer Backpack For Indoor Mapping
  - Airnest Drone Flight Logging Tool

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Tweel - (Almost) A Smart Wheel

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