Of maps and movies

I am doing research on the historical evolution of GIS (computer mapping) or GPS technologies in film and TV. Specifically, I are interested in examples of early precursors to map related technologies that are now common. For example, early police shows have crime locations marked as pins on a map, today there are electronic maps with a multitude of different information associated with each point. Another example would be the James Bond film Goldfinger which has a back-lit, moving map in 007’s Aston Martin which is very similar to most in-car GPS devices. I am looking for other examples from films/TV that they recall early examples of what are now standard modern mapping or GPS devices. Thank you in advance for any assistance.

One of the great things about this research is that it has led me to this site. It is terrific and I am sure I will be checking it a lot in the future.

Some sort of map, showing the location of characters in a film, is a common device to keep the audience up on where everyone is. But you don’t mean those superimposed maps like in the Indiajna Jones moies, or Where Eagles Dare.
I’m sure I’ve seen plenty of flicks with pseudo-GPS maps in them. One I can think of now is Fantastic Voyage, where the medical crew is shrunk down to repair a guy’s brain from the inside. They had a dopey-looking array of radar trackers outside the body,

and the informatio n was used to tell them where in the body the mini-sub was. Interestingly, given all the hardware, the indicator was a mahnetized circle on a transparent view of the bloodstream whose position was adjusted by a guy in a cherry-picker.

The first Star Wars movie had all those nifty graphics showing position (“The Death Star will be in position in FIVE Minutes”) that were, I was surprised to learn, done in part by Dan O’Bannon, the writer/direxctor/producer who was reponsible in part for Alien and Dead and Buried and other flicks, who directed Return of the Living Dead (where he had a cameo) and who played Pinback in Dark Star.

Well, there’s the “wireframe” sequence from Escape From New York, which still looks kinda cool as a 3D navigation system, of a type that just now might be possible.

Also, Nemo’s submarine in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has an extremely ornate Victorian-style mechanical mapping system, showing the location of both the sub and the stolen escape vessel.

The 1991 movie Until The End of the World featured a voice GPS system:

You’re on your own…Claire.

Not able to find a video link, but it was fairly prescient about some stuff, sadly mistaken about others - like predicting the end of the regime in China.

An earlier thread that might contain some other possibilities.

It’s amazing that that was just a black model and glow tape.

WWII movies like The Battle of Britain showing cute chicks working like croupiers at a routlette table, moving markers to represent attacking and defending aircraft. Can’t think of a particular movie title, but I’m sure I’ve seen basically the same scheme used to represent convoys and uboats.

And not what really what the OP is looking for, but last I heard they still use (roughly) proportionally sized and shaped plastic plane markers on a carrier-shaped table as a tool on aircraft carriers to help control the movement aircraft on the flight deck. Maybe it’s an interesting question as to why this hasn’t been replaced by an electronic system.

I’ve heard this discussed on some of those “Carrier” documentaries. The gist is that an electronic system is actually more complicated and less reliable than having a couple of guys move little toy planes around a tabletop. They tried it once or twice and always fell back to the manual system.

The TV series 24 is absolutely chock full of tracking technology, some of which is probably totally legit, some of which is probably theorized, and some of which is probably total bullshit thought up to patch over some gaping plot hole.

I’m thinking there must be examples in series like The Man From UNCLE and Mission Impossible as well, but my memories of the episodes are too dulled by time to recall any specifics.

Well, this clip of Battle of Britain shows what you’re describing, starting at 8:00, but there are lots of movies along those lines. I think Angels One Five would fit the bill, too, though my memory is shaky. There’s a more generalized board system shown briefly in Ike: Countdown to D-Day, with a map of northern France and the tracking of German armored, infantry and artillery units, based on the latest intel reports. Of course, the purpose of that scene is mostly to show what a jerk DeGaulle was.

I suppose looking for movies that feature WAAF characters (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) would be a good start, as many of the women operating the tracking boards would have been part of that service. I’m sure there’s been at least one tragic-romantic war movie in which a WAAF is pushing around a marker representing the plane flown by her boyfriend or husband, then hearing that he has crashed, picking up the marker and walking away silently and tearfully.

The same is true of the “computer generated” 3D maps in the wonderfully awful movie Megaforce.

Robocop has a brief glimpse of a hand-held tracking device showing the location of our hero superimposed on a map. This is different than many previous movies where trackers just had a needle pointing towards the objective or which did the ol’ increasing beep-beep as you neared the target.

A counterpoint to advanced mapping tech was in Close Encounters. After Bob Balabans realization that the numbers are map coordinates, they have to run out and grab a globe from someones office to find out where the coordinates are. While being surrounded with advanced radio telemetry equipment.

It’s been quite a while since I saw it (I should watch it again soon!), but didn’t *Dr. Strangelove *feature a big war-room map showing the locations of all the bombers? I’m picturing little lighted plane outlines with trailing lines showing their paths. Or am I conflating this with something else?

I think so, and I think there were similar scenes in the movie Fail Safe, about an accidental nuclear exchange.

As did Watchmen, which was getting its inspiration from that movie (and so did the original graphic novel, of course)

Sink the Bismarck! also had a Royal Navy map room full of little model ships being pushed around with sticks.

Quantum of Solace, the most recent James Bond movie, had a very cool computerized MI6 map in one scene.

Picard and Data in the Stellar Cartography room is a great scene from Star Trek: Generations. The cool stuff starts at 1:57:

Thanks everybody. This has been the most productive site I have posted to. Keep the suggesstions comeing.
Gene D

2001: A Space Odyssey had quite innovative film-withing-a-film 3D computer displays used to navigate various spacecraft as they approached the space station or the moon base.

There were similar graphics in Alien, one of which was reused in Blade Runner because Ridley Scott liked it so much.