I've discovered a new Internet toy: Google Earth. I found out about this from Search Engine Watch, which informs us:
Google has released its long-anticipated geographic search tool, a new application that combines local search with satellite images and maps from around the globe.
Google Earth is a standalone application that's essentially an enhanced and upgraded version of its Keyhole 3D satellite imagery product. As Google has done with several of its past acquisitions, the company has also made the application free to all users, dropping its annual subscription fee for the basic version. Google Earth Plus with additional features will cost $20 per year.
Think of spinning a big virtual planet earth, then zooming in, tilting the perspective and gliding across the landscape like a low-flying jet (you can choose your altitude). I've been trying to follow the landscape southward to the towns in Pennsylvania where I grew up (and which I will be visiting before the week is out). If you like, you can command the software to make the names of towns, roads, restaurants, pop onto the screen as you close in (not to mention bars, malls, golf courses, etc., and even crime statistics!). Just for fun, I've been trying to make my way "home" by following rivers and other terrain landmarks, not highways. But I've been getting lost a lot! The zoom feature varies from place to place, with greater resolution in some urban areas, less so for smaller cities and rural places. Still, when I finally arrived at the small town where my mother lives, and the very neighborhood, I check-marked the restaurant feature on the software and suddenly the name of the little "Mom & Pop" ice cream stand around the corner popped onto the screen, not to mention the seedy beerhall just down the street. Wow, does Google know all?