While writing my CCTV article on the 1984 Corvette, I got to thinking how despised the digital dashboard that the C4 introduced was at the time. Excoriated by the press, Chevrolet had to quickly rush our a revised dashboard for the Corvette in 1995 with a set of “proper” gauges. Yet I’ve never heard any actual owners complain about the digital gauges. No, the rabble rousing came almost exclusively from the automotive press.
The string-back driving gloved editors of the auto press held considerable sway over automakers at the time. Indeed, it is hard to find a better example of the tail of the automotive press wagging the dog of the manufacturer than right in front of your face on your instrument panel.
Most of the arguments in favor of analog gauges don’t hold much water in my opinion. The fact that analog gauges are more readable at a glance don’t make much sense: What could be more readable than two (or three) digits indicating your speed? The fact that needles give you a better sense of the rate of change by the speed of the sweep also seems a little too esotaric to be useful.
Indeed, the fact remains that the vast majority of drivers are better served by digital instruments. They are more precise because they don’t suffer from parallax, and the user doesn’t have to interpolate the distance between hashmarks.
Need further proof? Virtually all scientific instruments now (from thermometers to micrometers) are now digital. Or take a look at any modern Formula One steering wheel, like the example above. What do you see? Digital readouts.
But a few opinion makers at automobile magazines kept this technology from drivers for decades, in a trend that we are only now starting to see reversed.
So what are your thoughts? Are you a digital dude like me, or are you still a needle junkie?