Before you could look up addresses on the internet, how did people find smaller locations like houses and restaurants?


I know atlases and roadmaps were a lot more common, but from my understanding those give more of a broader view of a large area like major roads and stuff. If you needed to find a small subdivision or small road, how would you do that before the internet?

In: 27

For a business, you’d use the yellow pages, or call them and ask. For a residence, you ask for directions on the phone.

I used a thing called the “Thomas Guide”. You could buy them for different regions. All maps were on a grid, and so if you needed the smaller section you found it on the grid and say it was at volume D and row 5, you’d look up what page the D5 map was on and that be a whole page map of just that area.

So basically, maps. Also people were much better at giving and writing down directions. That’s about it!

You’d either ask the person who lives there for directions, call the business and ask for directions, or you’d find a city map. There used to be racks in all of the gas stations in my town with maps of most of the nearby cities in addition to the state, the county, etc. You don’t see those so much anymore because digital maps and/or in-car GPS navigation are more ubiquitous.

I lived during the time
You looked the place up in the phone book and called for directions.
I have a pretty decent sense of direction and at work they would often ask me to come to the phone and ” tell this person how to get here”

ELI5: I remember relying on my parents and when I got older I realized it was directions given by word of mouth. We would either remember the directions, find it for ourselves and get lost in the process or we would just write the directions down from the person giving them. Dark times but you didn’t forget how to get there ever again once you got to the destination. I remember my grandparents kept books of road maps in the pockets behind the seats. Very fun to look through.

Of course, there are also city maps which show every single street, often even with (some) house numbers. And with a list of all the streets in the city, alphabetically sorted, that told you which of the map’s numbered squares to look for the street in.

Businesses: The White/Yellow Pages.

Houses: You asked a person for directions to their house and wrote them down on a piece of paper.

Stop at a phone booth to look up the address in the phone book. Then reference that to a map book people usually kept in their vehicles. Or if you heard of the place from someone else they would give you specific directions where to turn of the street name wasn’t a well known one.

City maps were pretty commonly available. And most cities are organized so that streets are split between those with names and those with numbers. So maybe north/south streets are called 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. East/west streets have names like Main, Rood, White, etc. if you want to find 740 Rood Street you know it is on Rood between 7th and 8th Street.

Lots of maps lol. Maps for every city, every state, etc. the city maps had street number ranges on them if I remember correctly. And then we switched to printing pages and pages of mapquest directions. People have it so easy now. GPS get us everywhere and we don’t know how to get anywhere without it.

When I was temping in the mid 90s as a college student, every time I got a new assignment the agency would give me specific directions, which I would write down.

If I had to be somewhere new and no one had given me directions, I would break out the big atlas-style map of the city and find the road in the index, go to the proper page, and look for the grid numbers (like Battleship).

When Mapquest first showed up, it was groundbreaking stuff. You would just print your Mapquest directions before any trip and you’d be good to go. If you didn’t have a printer, you just copied them by hand.

I hate having to look at a phone when I’m driving now, because listening to directions on Google or Waze doesn’t help me much. I have to look at how the road name is spelled to find the correct sign.

Car GPS units were my favorite. But now my car GPS is shit compared to Google or Waze.

your understanding is incorrect, you would generally use paper maps or you would call up ask for the address, ask for directions, or look up in the yellow pages. but paper maps.

also Street: Usually runs East to West . Avenue: Usually runs North to South

many cities us a number and grid system vs street names and cow paths.

Typically, when a person or business would give out their address, they would also tell you the closest cross-street to their address, or name-drop a major street close-by. For example, “1234 Stooge Street, corner Chaplin Avenue”. or “56 Allen Road, just off of Romano Street near Williams”.

Heck, it’s a good practice that many businesses still do in their advertising today.

In the US at least, the phone company used to deliver a massive phone book to your door periodically. It was divided into yellow pages (which was organized by business category, e.g. you could look up plumbers in your area), white pages (businesses organized alphabetically), and residential listings (organized by last name). Residential listings gave phone numbers and sometimes addresses. Every home had a phone book, and every phone booth and gas station had one. This was how you looked up an address.

To drive to an address, if you were unfamiliar with the area, you would look it up on a road map, which included an index of street names organized on a grid system. However, most people who had lived in an area for a while would be familiar enough with the roadways to find an address without much help. Or you’d rely on word-of-mouth directions. It was common to get to your destination neighborhood and ask someone on the street for directions to a particular street or business. The attendant at a local gas station would also be a reliable source for directions.

I delivered pizzas in the mid-late 90’s. We used paper maps and if the place wasn’t on the map, we’d call them for directions prior to leaving the store. And if we got lost, had to look for a payphone or go all the way back to the store to use the phone there.

Delivery people now have it made. lol

Local phone books often had city maps in them. Ours had the small city and a few outlying towns. It was found in the front of the book or sometimes right before the yellow pages, often near the governmental agencies information and sometimes bus routes. Maps started to be phased out of some phone books about the time the print became so small you could barley read them.

UK here.

If going to a totally unknown place, I would use the road atlas to get there, then go into a local shop and look on the shelves for a local map. This would detail the town down to individual streets.

Hagstrom still makes binder type books by county. You’d have to know the street and town you were looking for then drive down the block reading house numbers. Carried at least 4 or 5 in my van for north NJ, southern NY

Go on like you’re going to that church but instead of taking a right hang a left instead. On down that road you’re going to pass a bunch of cow fields. Keep on going. When you get to that video game store that used to be an old gas station take a right. Keep driving for a long ways until it gets weird. When you see the water tower you’re there. Our house is the one with purple flowers painted on the fence. Come on in!

Every home was delivered a Phone book each year. These phone books contained the name, address and phone number of each person who had a home phone. This was called the White Pages.

There was also the Yellow Pages. Which was similar to the White Pages except for businesses. Businesses paid for these listings.

These gave you the address of places in the area the phone book covered.

On top of the White and Yellow pages these Phone books also contained maps of the area the Phone book covered. Once you know the street you need to head to it was just a matter of looking up that street name in the index of the maps and it told you what map to look at on Page X.

So the most common way people would find address were to look it up in the phone book and head to the map section and find the road they needed to travel to. So you then plotted out your route to get you to that road.

You could also buy complete maps of pretty much everywhere. These contained every road that was there when the current map was made. You could find these all over but just stopping at a gas stations or convenience stores, along with many other stores, in the area you were at was the easiest place to purchase one. These maps really weren’t any different that something like Google Maps, except they covered much smaller areas instead of everywhere.

You might not know exactly where to turn onto a street, but if you know the address it isn’t too hard to look at the posted addresses on any two building and see which way you needed to go to find the address. So if you saw address 123 followed by 125, moving in the direction you were traveling and needed to get to the address 324, you knew you needed to continue heading in the direction you were going until you found the building you were heading to, on the opposite side of the street, as odd addresses are on one side and even addresses are on the other(at least in the US).

If you were traveling a long distance, to say a city in a different state, you would start with an atlas and plot out the major roads you needed to travel to get you to the general area you were heading to. Then you would look at a local map of that area and find the street you needed to head to and plot a route from where you are to the road you needed. Then it was just a matter of looking at the addresses on the street and heading in the direction that would take you to the building you needed to get to.