Where were we? the postcode and gps


Spotted this on the side of Exeter University sports facilities – I've been doing a short tour of university open days in my parental capacity – probably more to blog about that in due course. Its the first time I have seen a public acknowledgement of the changing role of the postcode. You remember of course that the original point of the postcode was to make is viable to deliver first class letters the next day purely using a house number and a 6 digit code.

Then Richard Webber (I think it was him) had the bright idea of taking the national census data – tagging all sorts of customer data onto it and then developing a profiling system which would assign a geodemographic segmentation code to every dozen household. Suddenly direct mail and leafleting became a whole lot more accurate. And in theory we hadn't breached anybody's privacy. Inspired guesswork (though of course that's not what the slew of lifestyle databases which followed would call it).

And now the postcode has found a new role.You've gone to play squash. Your partner is late – it turns out he can't find his way there. So looking up at the wall of the gym you send him a code to put into his GPS and up he turns 10 minutes later. A use the original designers of the postcode would never have thought of.  (Of course it could be so the postman knows where to deliver the gym subscriptions. But I don't think so) Notice that this is a notion of place which while posted on a wall in the real world is entirely virtual. But has changed from an internal system for a public utility so a publicly shared co-ordinate system. Just as virtual though.



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