GPS by Paul E. Ceruzzi Explains the Entire Story

The roots of GPS extend further back in time than the 1960’s and 70’s. Having accurate clocks and using objects in the sky to navigate are hundreds of years old.

Diagram of GPS Constellation

GPS Constellation

If you are in the geomatics business and like to read, than GPS by Paul E. Ceruzzi is another title that I am recommending as a must read assuming you want to learn about the detailed history of satellite navigation.

As Ceruzzi points out when GPS first took form in the early 1970’s (although the first components of what would become GPS were orbited in the late 1960’s) its creators were focused on satisfying the following criteria: availability, coverage, accuracy, user equipment and usability.

What’s missing? How about navigation? As Ceruzzi points out, many inventions end up being used in ways their creators never imagined. GPS certainly fits into that category.

How did that happen? Ceruzzi explains that the once-obscure space technology that was GPS in the beginning collided with three other disruptive technologies – the Internet, the microprocessor and the cell phone. I guess the early developers could never have imagined all of that technology intersecting.

Ceruzzi reminds us that many people think of the 70’s as a “fallow” period. Missions to the Moon were cancelled in 1972, the Space Shuttle was plagued with delays, Skylab fell back to the Earth in 1979.  In large part OPEC was to blame for a cultural and economic shock.

The truth of it was all of the ground work for GPS was laid in that decade providing the free worldwide coverage that is now being exploited by anyone who owns a cell phone. Incredible.

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