Sunday, October 27, 2013

Technological Transformation

GPS Declassified: From Smart Bombs to SmartphonesGPS Declassified: 
From Smart Bombs to Smartphones 
by Richard D Easton

"From the vantage point of 2100 A.D., the year 1957 will most certainly stand in history as the year of man's progression from a two-dimensional to a three-dimensional geography.  It may well stand also, as the point in time at which intellectual achievement forged ahead of weapons and national wealth as instruments of national policy." - Lloyd V. Berkner, epigram to chapter one, p.7.

Where were you in 1958? I was in grade school in a small town in southern Wisconsin but elsewhere things were popping in the world of space science. Russia had sent Sputnik into orbit the previous October and scientists in the United States, in secret in the Armed Services, were working on a response. Part of that response led to the development of what was to become known simply as "GPS" in the vernacular of practically everyone on the planet. I know that this avid reader of science fiction, who thought his new transistor radio was really neat in 1958, did not imagine that cars and phones and everyday life of his adult future would be shaped in part by this ubiquitous invention.
In GPS Declassified Richard D. Easton and Eric F. Frazier tell the story of how this happened in an fascinating and readable way. The technological difficulties, bureaucratic roadblocks, and breathtaking breakthroughs are shared through several narratives that lead to the future we live in today. These narratives include background of both a brief history of navigation and the development of satellites; but also delve into the how and why of GPS leading the reader from the military beginnings to the civilian uses that have since proliferated. There is the exciting success story of GPS use in the Persian Gulf War and the birth of a new industry providing GPS for the millions of consumers that use it today. A concluding section looks forward to the future of GPS. History of Science is seldom told better than this story of the development of a technology that has in no small way transformed our world.

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Brian Joseph said...

The world has changed so much in such a short period of time. I really like these histories that describe how these innovations came about. When well written they tell a deeper story about how progress happens and the way people think.

James said...

I share your interest in history of science that is changing our daily life in many ways. Our own blogs are just one example of technologically-enabled changes.