Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

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Random memory: Self-guided tour

I remember how, as a child, we visited the ruins of an old monastery, somewhere in England—I think it was my father, my sister Jennifer, and I, though I’m not completely certain. This was probably around 1985–1990.

What I thought was nifty was the possibility of a self-guided tour: they rented portable cassette players (I was going to say “Walkman”, but they probably weren’t that brand), with a cassette containing a tour of the monastery.

That way, you could explore the place at your own speed, staying in each area as long as you liked, simply by pausing the tape after listening to the description of that area.

As I recall, the narrator played the part of a monk who lived there, and he described the places the way they must have looked when the monastery was still in use, though nowadays, most of the place is only stone walls less than a meter (3 ft.) high.

I thought that was pretty clever, though nowadays I’m sure there are variations on the theme that take advantage of the technology developed (or widely adopted) since then.

An interim thing was the MP3 files I found once for a tour of the city of Chur in Switzerland; this lets you choose not only the speed but also the order in which you visit the places (theoretically possible with the cassette tape, too, but not practical).

But I think I’ve heard about something even more sophisticated, where there’s a device that uses GPS to determine the position and automatically play an appropriate message, or one where there are fixed short-range senders that interact with a device you carry (your phone, via NFC?) to tell it what to play.

Anyway, I remember rather enjoying that tour—especially since I could do it at my own pace: my father stayed with my sister and toured at her pace and we all met up later at (I presume) a pre-agreed time and place.

Tags: random memory
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