Help us name subcategory for navigation devices

9:35 a.m. on October 21, 2009 (EDT)
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Hi folks, we're looking at our navigation tools and planning to add a subcategory for non-powered compasses and altimeters -- but we can't make up our mind what to call the category. Among the options we're looking at:

* Analog -- this contrasts to "digital" but I'm not sure "analog" is intuitive to most people (I've been a geek all my life and I still don't like the word).

* Traditional -- I'm thinking if somebody's in the market for a compass, they might see all the electronic versions out there and think "I don't want electronic, I want a plain ol' compass with a needle that points north."

Input from actual compass/altimeter users welcome. Interestingly, I couldn't find any online sources of compasses or altimeters that make this distinction.

10:59 a.m. on October 21, 2009 (EDT)
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Okay compass aficionados, what do you think?

I'm suggesting traditional vs. electronic compasses, but perhaps there's a better term for the first.

12:50 p.m. on October 21, 2009 (EDT)
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"needle me, please"

1:22 p.m. on October 21, 2009 (EDT)
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"Traditional" carries the tone of "old-school", whereas "everybody" knows that "digital" is latest/greatest.

Looking at the gear review section, I can understand how the search would be confusing, with all the multifunction devices intermingled with single function devices, and needle compasses intermingled with flux gate compasses (no aneroid altimeters anywhere to be seen, though, only multifunction and single function electronic altimeters).

Part of the problem with trying to define fine gradations in categories is that current and future navigation devices, like many other devices, are "multi-tasking". That is, to take the compass and altimeter as an example, a number of the high-end GPSRs include a fluxgate compass (hence electronic and frequently, though not always, digital display) and a barometric altimeter/barometer (digital display in all cases I have seen, though the graphical "climb/descent" display may be an analog graph). I also have a weather instrument (Kestrel 4500) which is electronic that combines an altimeter and compass, along with a number of other weather-related measuring functions (the fluxgate compass is used for determining wind direction plus cross- and head-wind components).

Another aspect of the micro-classification trap (hopefully avoiding nano-classification) is that compasses themselves can be divided into multiple user categories, which traps buyers into getting compasses that have functions they do not understand, resulting in added weight and complication and reducing usability.

Would you separate out those magnetic needle compasses between those with and without clinometers? Or those with a declination offset built in from those without this feature? Would orienteering thumb compasses go in a separate category since they have no degree markings?

This difficulty of trying to over-classify shows up in the catalogs and websites of the outdoor-oriented companies. I think readers are bright enough to figure it out if the review says if the widget is battery powered or multifunction. My suggestion would be to have simply a compass category and an altimeter category, and just note in the reviews whether the widget is battery-operated, no "digital", "electronic", "analog", "traditional", etc etc subcivisions. This might mean some devices should go into a "multi-function" category, or be listed in several sections. The review section should have a "guide to the seeker" that points out among other things the pluses and minuses of the different forms, including those of multi-function devices.

hmmmm, I guess I am sort of an afficionado, since I have a couple dozen "magnetic needles" and aneroid pressure sensors (altimeters and barometers to the uninitiated), and a couple dozen electronic devices that contain one or more direction or pressure devices. That includes a "Mecca" compass that indicates the direction to face for the 5 daily prayers and a survey-grade "pocket transit".

1:28 p.m. on October 21, 2009 (EDT)
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Something else I noticed: compasses are already about 90 percent analog, while altimeters are about 95 percent electronic.

I could talk myself out of the electronic/non-electronic split pretty easily at this point, but wanted to see how others felt.

1:44 p.m. on October 21, 2009 (EDT)
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FYI, the current Navigation category has the sub-categories:

Altimeters (72)
Compasses (178)
GPS Receivers (128)
Locator Beacons (7)

We don't want to try to over-classify, but help people find what they want in a manageable way. And no, we wouldn't classify further by widgets and features.

5:55 p.m. on October 21, 2009 (EDT)
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Well, Bill stole my thunder (again).

I like the term 'Old School' the best.

'Traditional' may appeal to a broader audience though, & 'analog' sounds more correct to me, if we just wish to be technical.

When I bought my first old school altimeter, I went in and asked if they had any analog altimeters, I got some funny looks from the college guys who worked there and then they just directed me to the glass case with all the electronics.

I'm not sure if they were unfamiliar with the term analog, or just thought I needed to be converted to electronics for the good of my soul.

I personally think a non electric category would be useful.

9:08 p.m. on October 21, 2009 (EDT)
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Here Here to the Digital and Analog.

9:49 p.m. on October 21, 2009 (EDT)
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Yeah......okay I change my mind after some thought (is that allowed, me thinking, I mean) I'll vote for analog.

It is the correct term I think.

10:21 p.m. on December 2, 2009 (EST)
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How bout "active" and "passive"? Since I am an analog RF engineer and a digital engineer, the terms have different meanings, like analog refers to a value between 0 and 1 (like .67 for instance) and digital means only zero or one, or it means having LCD display.

Jim S

Bill S - few campers need clinometers and those thumb compasses could be classified under "cracker Jack". I forget though that your initials are BS.

11:19 p.m. on December 2, 2009 (EST)
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Some people think they need lensatic compasses for hiking on trails. Some think they need the magnifying lenses on the compass and a dozen different map scales. Maybe some people use the clinometer for measuring the tilt of their picnic table. And some people actually believe they can follow a compass degree heading accurately for 5 or 10 miles (even though they do not understand how to adjust for declination).

Skilled map readers having highly detailed and accurate maps only use the compass for the needle to orient the map (such as orienteering competition maps). Given a good map, we don' need no stinkin' degree marks on a compass. One of the things about orienteering compasses is that they settle quickly and will remain steady even at a full run over rough terrain, important for matching map and terrain while running full tilt, leaping over downed redwoods.

10:45 a.m. on December 3, 2009 (EST)
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I would suggest keeping the categories "as-is" and not sub-categorizing. They'll get where they want to go.

June 21, 2018
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