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GPS: Where Would We Be Without It?

July 22, 2013

There’s a keystone in every great invention

In today’s society, people no longer use maps to figure out how to get somewhere. All you have to do is plug in an address or intersection and press go. Just simply look into any vehicle and see a device either built into it or mounted inside. The GPS, also known as the global positioning system, seems to play a major part in today’s world.

The GPS was developed by the United States Department of Defense as well as Ivan Getting. Getting was born in 1912 in New York City but made sure he traveled far and wide to achieve an excellent education. He graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and went onward to earn his doctorate in astrophysics from Oxford University. Soon after, he then became the vice president of Raytheon Corporation, which is located in California, and pioneered the first three-dimensional, time-difference-of-arrival position-system in response to an air force requirement for a guidance system.

In 1940, as director of the Division on Fire Control and Army Radar, his group developed the first automatic microwave tracking fire control radar, the SCR 584, was credited with helping to save London from destruction by V-1 buzz bombs during World War II. This turned out to be a crucial turning point in Getting’s life.

GPSThe device worked off “man-made stars” or satellites which were used as reference points to calculate geographical positions. Once there were geographical positions, it was easier to give directions on how to get to the final destination. It became known as NAVSTAR because it was based off of “man-made stars.” Originally it was run off of twenty four satellites. This moment demonstrated how technology was advancing to help people around the world.

The modern-day GPS consists of three major parts; the space segment, the control segment, and the user segment. The Space Segment consists of twenty-four satellites in medium earth orbit and includes adapters to launch them into orbit. The control segment is comprised of four parts; the master control station, an alternate master control station, four dedicated ground antennas and six monitor stations. The operational control segment provides capability that supports GPS users and keeps it performing within specification. The user segment is composed of hundreds of U.S and allied military users of the GPS Precise Positioning Service, as well as, millions of civil and commercial users of Standard Positioning Service.

In the early 1990’s, The Joint Direct Attack Munitions turned “dumb” bombs into high-precision bombs capable of destroying multiple targets at any time of the day or night. The revolution of the GPS was originally due to the military’s need to deliver weapons to soldiers; however, it was becoming more evident that consumers would be able to use this device as well.

At the same time that bombs were being converted, the GPS was being sold to consumers. By having consumers purchase them, the world was receiving a whole new experience that would change the way they travel. In May 2000, President William Clinton realized the global utility of civilians having a GPS and took a leap of faith by directly turning off the “selective availability” thus creating more precision on geographical points.

Now a day, the GPS is used mainly by automobile drivers, delivery vehicles, public transportation, emergency responders, as well as, people who participate in recreational activities such as hiking and biking. In addition, the GPS is also used to pinpoint any ship or submarine and it’s used to measure Mount Everest. What does the future hold for GPS and satellite tracking? Without Ivan Getting, and his brilliant mind, where would we be today? Still using paper maps? It doesn’t seem like it’s going to disappear anytime soon. Advancements are being made to this day in order to perfect the various systems.

Keystone Electronics supplies USB plugs and sockets, test points, coin cell battery retainers, and washers for various GPS models.