Obsolete: Road map

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Obsolete item: A map sheet or book showing roads and transport links.


Born: The Turin Papyrus Map, drawn around 1160BC, depicts routes along dry river beds through a mining region east of Thebes in Ancient Egypt.

Death: Being superseded by internet mapping websites and car-fitted navigation systems.

Use: Getting from A to B.

Description: It’s no fun looking up an address in a street directory anymore. Before you have found the street name in the index, before you have plotted the little square called something like ‘‘J11’’, someone will be telling you the opening hours and bringing up the street view of the location on their computer.

Some of us have moving maps on our car dashboard. They speak directions to us in a soothing tone. There is even one available with Frank Oz voicing Yoda from Star Wars: ‘‘At the roundabout, right you must turn. The third exit you must take.’’

You can end up with a navigation system from another country if you drive an imported car. This is not particularly useful, but it provides a way to experience overseas travel in these days of border restrictions: I was able to visit Uncle Paul in Canberra recently, driving around until a road in the Waitati Valley placed me right outside his house.

Comeback: In June 2002, then US president George W. Bush used ‘‘road map’’ as a metaphor for a protracted Middle East policy implementation plan. The term has stuck: now metaphorical road maps even come with their own traffic light systems.


— Peter Dowden








Only obsolete if you don't now how to use them. They have a great advantage over electronics; the batteries never run down and they don't require a signal. Only a fool would venture into the hills (or to sea, in the case of a chart) without one.

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