In the 1960’s the U-2 aircraft provided close and detailed pictures of selected areas of the Earth. The most remembered use of this was during the President Kennedy era of the Cuban missile crisis.
Today, you can get pictures just as close and almost as detailed on your computer with Google Earth, the software that takes “Map Quest” to task!
Dial in an address and you get a picture image taken from orbit around Earth that is detailed enough to show swimming pools in the backyards of homes! While you can’t quite determine the make and model of a given car parked in a driveway, nor read the license plate, you can, at times, determine the color of the auto!
Google Earth comes in three flavors. A free version (not sure how long this one will be available), a “Plus” version with GPS, drawing tools and the ability to import spreadsheets ($20 U.S.) and a “Professional” version for $400 that includes overlays of parks, businesses, retail establishments, streets, along with other options (some at an addition fee of $200 each).
All the versions allow you to tilt and pan to get a “3-D” look at the terrain, which is generally in color. The free version shows some major roads and overlays (below is where I was once located in San Fernando, California and you can see some of the street names listed on the downloaded image from Google).
The only restriction is that you have to be on a PC under Windows XP, sorry 98+ and ME users, no go! Only the Free version is available (at the current time) for Macintosh users (hey, can’t beat the price)!
For more information or to download a free or trial copy go to:
-- Orion Cheung contributed to this article