How the GPS found its true calling!
From unwanted US military tech ... its true path
Posted on 15.01.2020
When’s the last time you pulled out a map to work out where you need to go?
It’s probably been years (or maybe even never, depending on your age) — because GPS is at our fingertips, and it’s never been easier to use.
First developed by the US military for warfare, the Global Positioning System uses a network of at least 24 satellites to provide location and time information.
But did you know it’s only one of four satellite navigation systems orbiting the Earth? That the civilian signal was at one time deliberately “scrambled” to be off by 100 metres? Or that space junk is one of its biggest threats?
Here’s a quick look at how the technology got to where it is today.
Why was GPS created?
Developed in the 1970s by mavericks within the US military, the technology first struggled to get funding from leadership sceptical of its potential.
“One of the key things to remember about GPS is that it was the Air Force’s program, but most of the Air Force, or at least a very good chunk of it, did not want GPS,” journalist Greg Milner told Radio National’s Rear Vision.
But its backers — among them Colonel Brad Parkinson — kept pushing.
“His idea with GPS was that it would be developed as a way to do precision bombing… it would make a more humane type of warfare,” says Milner, author of Pinpoint: How GPS is changing our world.
“It was purely a military tool.”
Who were the first civilians to use it?
Precision timekeepers! They used GPS in the 1980s to synchronise clocks all over the world.
They were soon followed by land surveyors, who were attracted to the system’s accuracy.
By the 1990s there were enough satellites to give 24-hour coverage and the technology was taken up by the aviation and shipping industries.
Milner says the personal navigation market began to slowly develop in the 1990s.
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