The Geocaching Blog


Who’s Hiding in Your GPS Device?

Eric Schudiske on July 19, 2010, 8:07 am

5 Comments | Permalink

Movie References

Who's in your GPS device?

Your GPS device is hiding a cast of tens of thousands. Every time your GPS device blinks to life, pioneers, innovators and at least one Chinese explorer blink back.  The journey to help you walk out your front door and find a geocache begins way back in 1400.

There were clearly no GPS devices then. Magnetized needles were used to find direction for more than a thousand years. But it wasn’t until the 14th century that an admiral in China put the innovation to another use.  Zheng He is reported to be the first person to use the compass as a navigational aid. The Chinese explorer and diplomat employed the compass to direct ocean expeditions to the South and West of China beginning in 1405.

Chinese magnetic compass (pbs.org)

Over the next two hundred years others, including Galileo and Amerigo Vespucci, the namesake of America, further researched navigating by latitude and longitude. But there was still far to go.

It wasn’t until the 1884 the International Meridian Conference adopted a universal Prime Meridian – or zero point of longitude.

Less than a hundred years later, in the 1970’s, a constellation of GPS satellites was launched into orbit.  They provided never-before-realized navigation accuracy to the U.S. military.  The rest of us began enjoying that accuracy on May 2nd, 2000 when the order was issued to stop intentionally degrading the GPS signal available to the public. GPS accuracy instantly improved tenfold.

One day later the first geocache was placed.

Think of the scientists, politicians and navigational crusaders behind the ideas of navigating by latitude and longitude.  Every time you power up your GPS their ideas boot up too. There’s a lot going on inside your GPS.

In addition to all those innovators, don’t forget the 40-some Lackeys at Groundspeak, 200-some volunteer Reviewers and four to five million other geocachers who drive this activity.   Each of these people and events make your geocaching adventure a reality.

Now don’t you want to put them all to the test and go grab a geocache?

  • Elde

    Um… the constellation wasn't in place for testing until 1986, and didn't start providing navigation services until 1993 and didn't reach full capacity until 1995.

  • http://blog.geocaching.com Eric Schudiske

    Elde, thanks for the comment. The sentiment of the piece was to state the first “Block I” GPS satellites in the constellation, beginning with Navstar1, were launched into orbit starting in 1978.

  • model12
  • http://www.gpscardvd.com/ Car DVD GPS

    I love the idea of putting a GPS in our car, thank you for sharing and GPS reviews, have a great day!

  • http://cellphonetrackers.org GPS tracker

    I do not think so, no one actually.


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