Slow Map

When Jerry's Map was started in August, 1963 in that production control room of the Hoover Ball Bearing factory on South State Road in Ann Arbor there were no personal computers, no color copy machines, no video games, no emails, no Walkmen, no satellite TVs, no fax machines even.

The earliest panels of the Map were executed in ballpoint pen on what was referred to as "typing paper." Since there was no word processing, term papers had to be hand-typed on one of those antique machines called "typewriters". The stats for the Map- populations, "station districts", college football scores were typed onto half-page size binder paper. Letters I wrote to friends back in Ann Arbor after I transferred to Berkeley in September, 1963 were typed, and I made a carbon copy to keep for myself.

All that now seems like the Middle Ages. I use the computer to scan images, compose smaller-scale sheets, to make labels, and to keep stats. I use the color inkjet constantly to make copies of panels so that I can revise them without losing their history. I email images. I sell prints on eBay.

But I won't resort to generating the actual Map iconography by computer. I often think what I might have created on SimCity if I had spent 49 years doing it. The satisfaction, for me, of making this Map is to see the interaction of my rules and my hand. They are, in a way, a simple, slow computer. The images emerge at a snail's pace. Panels often take years to complete.

Sometimes I feel that we move too fast in these times. We miss many details when we do. We see more of what's real from the seat of a bicycle than one of an A320. (I do love the window seats, though, I have to admit. That must be obvious from my work).

There has been a lot of talk about turning my Map into a video game. I will only want to do that when it's possible to recreate the hand-drawn quality. Will that be in my lifetime?