GPS – THE GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM
January 26, 2022
Tony Stark to Vanity Fair reporter Christine Everhart in the Marvel movie Iron Man:
“Do you plan to report on the millions we’ve saved by advancing medical technology or kept from starvation with our intellacrops? All those breakthroughs, military funding, honey!”
While outgoing President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the world of the growing military-industrial complex in his final speech as president on January 17, 1961, there is no doubt that the world has greatly benefitted from most of the technology developed by the military-industrial complex.
One of the advances many people today take for granted is GPS – the Global Positioning System. From telling time on your cell phone or computer or getting from point A to point B in your Tesla, GPS has become so integrated into people’s lives that most of us don’t even notice it.
The first global positioning system called Transit was created in 1958 by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. The first satellite for Transit was developed by the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and was launched in 1960 providing navigation for military and commercial users. The U.S. Navy was one of the first to use Transit for programming their submarine-launched missiles. By 1968, the Navy had 36 fully operational satellites orbiting around the planet.
Throughout the 1960s, the development of GPS was assisted by the technological advancements of solid-state microprocessors, computers, and bandwidth utilization techniques. The development of atomic clocks led to advances in a satellite-based navigation system called Timation, short for Time Navigation. A satellite equipped with an atomic clock was launched into space in 1974, which improved the accuracy of GPS and provided three-dimensional location coverage. Also that year, the U.S. Air Force developed Navstar satellites, their ground control system, and a variety of types of military user equipment.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan authorized the use of Navstar (or GPS as it became known) by civilian commercial airlines in an attempt to improve navigation and safety for air travel. The authorization to provide free access to GPS data to industries outside the U.S. military became the first step towards authorized civilian usage. By 1989, commercially available hand-held GPS units hit the market, including the Magellan Corporation’s Magellan NAV 1000, which weighed 1.5 pounds, offered only a few hours of battery life, and cost $3,000. 
GPS technology continued to improve through the 1980s and 1990s with the production and development of the GPS Block II satellite which was launched into orbit in 1989 on a Delta II rocket. Concern also grew within the government that U.S. adversaries could utilize the GPS system, and its information, against the U.S. In response, the Defense Department decided to adjust the system to be less accurate in non-military applications (known as “selective availability”) in order to deter any usage by enemies. 
As GPS coverage continued to expand to full operational capabilities, so did its reach into the lives of civilians. GPS technology appeared for the first time in a cellphone in 1999 when Benefon released Benefon Esc!, a GPS-equipped phone that would lead the way for more cellphones. At that time, GPS technology also began to show up in automobiles. 
In 2000, the government approved plans to add three additional GPS signals for non-military use. More importantly, the U.S. government ended the “selective availability” program that decreased the accuracy achievable by civilian GPS users. As a result of this decision GPS signals for civilians instantly became 10 times more accurate overnight. 
The price of GPS receivers and processing chips also dropped from roughly $3000 to $1.50. The increase in accuracy coupled with the decrease in cost led to exponential growth in GPS usage for in-car navigation, location-based services, personal technology, and usage in shipping, sailing, and other industries. 
The impact of space-based navigation technology in our world continues. “…it’s the integration of that data with other data that makes it so valuable for maps, weather, and synchronized/crowd-sourced data. Reports estimate that since the 1980s, GPS satellites have helped generate nearly $1.4 trillion in economic benefits. Point-N-Track (PNT) timing is also crucial for running our data networks and financial systems. It is used for the scientific study of earthquakes, volcanos, and the movement of the tectonic plates. Space-based navigation is used to aid construction and optimize farming, including the application of water and pesticides. A 2019 study estimated that between 2007 and 2017, GPS-enabled location-based services such as guidance apps helped American consumers save 52 billion gallons of fuel and drive over one trillion fewer vehicle-miles.” 
I heard once that man’s advancement in technology between 1940 and 1980 was greater than all previous years in history combined. Knowing what we have today, I can believe it.
Sooo, what does that have to do with the Here I Am app? With the Here I Am App on your phone, if you want to know where you are anywhere in the world, you can get your exact GPS position through the Message Preferences of the app’s Settings function.
- Click the Here I Am App icon on your home screen (we recommend that the Here I Am App icon be always placed on your home screen for quick and easy access.)
- Click on the Settings function icon (as shown in the blue circle)
- On this page, click on “Emergency Message Preferences” This will take you to the next screen.
- Scroll to the bottom of this screen and click on “Save & Continue” (you can make changes to your other profile settings at this time too if you’d like to update them) to go to the next screen.
- You’ll now be at the Message Preferences screen #2 and your Latitude and Longitude positions will appear in about two seconds.
- Click “Save” and you’ll be taken back to the main emergency activation screen.
Knowing your exact GPS location will allow you to advise your family and friends or emergency services exactly where you are even if you’re not in a critical emergency situation at the time. Remember; it’s quite easy to get lost on an unfamiliar trail or road in an unfamiliar part of the country or possibly even get stuck on a snow-covered road anytime during the winter. I know. I’ve been there.
As with all emergencies, timing is critical. With the Here I Am App on your phone, help is just a click away. To discover more about the Here I Am app, visit: www.hereiamapp.com
Here I Am App is available for purchase on Google Play and the Apple App Store for USD$1.99.
Paul Taalman is the creator of the Here I Am app.
For more information about GPS please visit: https://aerospace.org/article/brief-history-gps
1 https://aerospace.org/article/brief-history-gps – Accessed 01/26/22
2 Ibid. – Accessed 01/26/22
3 Ibid. – Accessed 01/26/22
4 Ibid. – Accessed 01/26/22
5 Ibid. – Accessed 01/26/22
6 Ibid. – Accessed 01/26/22