|Andy HeadHardHat Smith host of Geocaching World (RVNN.tv)|
Paperless Geocaching has been ingrained so much into the activity that it is more of a given than a conscious effort. It was not always so, in the beginning, like all of about four years ago, there was no paperless Geocaching per-say. Geocachers were forced to write or print out listings of Geocaches, descriptions of Geocaches, maps or the general area a geocacher wanted to search. This would result in reams of printed content that was usually discarded once the Geocaching run was completed. To add to that Geocaching finds were recorded by hand in paper log books before finally being typed into a listing service.
Fortunately the demand to save trees came to be and GPSr units started having the ability to store caches internally via .loc and .gpx files. Stored within these files included meta data that also gave some of the same information that was found on the geocache pages. Usually a connective cable was used between the GPSr and a computer for the file transfer itself. It was not a perfect solution but it did cut down some of the paper being used to describe a geocache find.
Now bring in the gadgets. As GPSr units slowly started to incorporate and display more and more meta data devices like PDA's (Handspring, Palm) were found to be able to run programs like Cachemate that could display almost all of the meta data found in the .gpx files. Even though the PDAs did not have GPS functionality they did allow the geocacher the ability to load, display and log thousands of Geocaches with very little effort. Data could be easily transferred between the PDA and the computer. WiFi was a plus with the use of PDAs.
By the time the PDAs were becoming obsolete GPSr units were focusing on much more paperless functionality. Net books and laptops were becoming much more instruments of the paperless Geocaching society. Computers would allow full electronic functionality via programs like GSAK to create routes and easier logging. You no longer needed to print out maps because it was right there on the computer. It also allowed realtime logging directly into a listing web site. The beginning aspects of tethering was being explored. This allowed phone connectivity with a computer anywhere there was phone service. This was a step up from just having WiFi.
Smart phones quickly have made their mark in the paperless Geocaching world. Having the ability of realtime Geocaching, built in GPS functionality and powerful applications. Smart phones have a favorable all in one quality that many geocachers like. This is in direct competition with GPSr units that are struggling to keep up with the same functionality. Currently the big draw for GPS units is their rugged outdoor stability in contrast to a smart phone that is not made for rough or wet terrain.
Now that net books are in the process of being phased out, tablets and there equally powerful apps can contain all the functionality of real-time paperless Geocaching. This is currently directly in competition with the Smart phone market. Tablets can have 3G or other direct wireless communications. Geocaching applications are just as powerful as computer based programs in a device that can fit in your hand. By this time very little to no actual physical paper is needed. All data and information is transferred and stored electronically.
Where do we go from here?
I can see GPSr units incorporating new and more specific functionalities. They are already starting to have features like cameras, voice recordings and basic SMS texting. Who knows what will be available in even the short term future but one thing is for sure. There will be a whole lot more trees growing because of it.
What are your thoughts?
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