back to article Worldwide GPS may die in 2010, say US gov

The global positioning system (GPS) operated by the US government could fail as early as next year. According to a report (PDF) by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), the independent and nonpartisan agency charged with keeping track of government efficiency (or lack thereof), "It is uncertain whether the Air Force …

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  1. Bruce Hoult

    reports are greatly exaggerated

    > In other words, not only will your iPhone not know where it is, but neither will your

    > geotagging camera accurately insert location info into your photos' metadata, nor

    > your car's navigation system help you find your way out of the morass of freeways

    > that is Los Angeles.

    Bullshit.

    What they're worried about is that they might not be able to keep a complete set of 24 satellites going, in order to enable most places to always have at least eight visible. But you only actually need to have four satellites visible to get a 3D position with plenty of accuracy for uses such as navigation in a car.

    Their spec says they'd like to have 24 going, but the deterioration of the service is gradual, and even half that number would work fine for almost any civilian use other than high precision surveying.

  2. Justin Clements

    not a chance

    Sorry, I call shits on this one. There is no way that the various branches of the US military will be left without a functioning GPS system considering virtually everything needs it at some point. And if one satellite does fail, why not replace it like for like?

    This is simply political maneuvering from an interested body.

  3. Gareth Pye
    Happy

    Silly Single Constellation Gear

    That's what you get for cutting corners in your consumer gear and not using dual constellation receivers.

    This type of news is helping us improve margins though, selling the slightly more expensive GPS + GLONASS receivers. The next time you buy something with GPS: ask why it doesn't support GLONASS as well.

  4. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    Anybody wonder?

    Darpa doesn't think they'll make it either.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/05/18/darpa_gps_backup_plan/

  5. James Hughes

    Best I not throw my road atlas out then

    You forgot to mention shipping - everything water born now navigates by GPS. Well, maybe not kite surfers. Since most crews rely totally on automated systems to keep them clear of rocky and shallow bits, expect quite a few ships on beaches. It'll be just like whale strandings, but with less whales.

  6. Antti Roppola

    Bacon and Eggs

    I wouldn't cancel that geo-tagged camping trip just yet.

    you can be pretty sure that some of the more committed stakeholders will make sure enough satellites are launched. At all costs is probably acceptable when compared to the risk of aerospace hardware landing in the wrong locations.

  7. Charles Manning

    Most important

    Bugger the cute geotagging apps... those are trivial.

    GPS is used as the timing source for numerous applications including cell towers etc.

    No GPS means no cell phone calls.

    Sure, you could in theory retrofit every single cell site with a v v v accurate clock, but that's not going to be viable.

    Some nice saber rattling by the Air Force to get funded for more GPS satellites.

    Get your twittering in now folks!

  8. James O'Brien
    Black Helicopters

    Sweet

    I cant wait i cant wait i cant wait!!!!!

    Now those idiots who drive into lakes will have to blame their stupidity on something else YAY!!!!!

    Anyway not like I care. Dont use GPS. Im a guy. I either try to read the map and get lost, get lost and refuse to ask for directions, or just scry my way home (ok seriously I know how to read a map, and ask for directions. Fuck GPS)

    Yep I cant wait.

    /BH because its the closest thing I can find that looks like something falling from the sky.

  9. Tim Bates

    31 of 24 still going.

    There's 31 functioning satellites out there according to a Wikipedia article. Plus 2 more spares just sitting and waiting to replace any failed ones.

    I think we've got a bit more time before people drive into lakes unguided.

  10. Greg
    Thumb Up

    Feh, GPS: False Security for the Navigationally Challenged

    I hated the PLGR they issued in the Army...half the time the damned thing would lock up if there was a tree within 50 feet.

    'Direction: North (12.3°)'

    <Turn around, walk 10 feet.>

    'Direction: North (11.2°)'

    <Turn left, walk 30 feet> '

    Direction: North (15.7°)'

    <Curse, turn off PLGR, open compass, shoot azimuth>.

    I believe there may still be a lightly-used PLGR somewhere in the Mojave desert courtesy of Top winging it out the window after it locked up, again. Oops, FIELD LOSS!

    Works great on the open sea, in the open desert, or at 10,000ft, but damned if it works in triple canopy jungle. Hopefully they've improved them since I got out.

    The best was some REMF who wrote into the Stars&Stripes (upon her third time failing PLDC) "It's stupid to still require Land Navigation with a compass. We have PLGRs now, we don't need compasses anymore!" Uh-huh. I'll take a 1:50,000 and my "crank the bezel 2 clicks CCW 'cause it's a little wonky" compass any day.

  11. Rich

    Try using a map/chart

    As Mr Page would no doubt tell you, nobody got any sort of commerical or military shipping ticket without learning to navigate the hard way (dead reckoning, compass bearings, stars, radar).

  12. Gene Cash Silver badge
    Flame

    @James O'Brien

    And you're still an idiot if you rely on a single source of nav data, be it map or GPS satellite.

    Years of getting lost has taught me to not go somewhere unfamiliar without at least two and hopefully three nav aids, like written directions, a sketch, a Google printout, a commercial map, and maybe GPS unit.

    I use my Nokia N800 with Google Maps downloaded using Maemo Mapper, and a Holux m241 Bluetooth GPS. Google hasn't yet stomped on Maemo Mapper like they did Viking.

    It's not the satellite system that's to blame, it's the extremely shitty digital maps from the likes of such moronic retards as Garmin, who appear totally incapable of providing maps for my area less than 14 years out of date, and that's being generous. They've also never noticed that the two major highways through the center of Orlando actually connect, so they end up sending you on a goose chase through downtown. This is 18 years after the interchange was built. EIGHTEEN YEARS, PEOPLE!

    East Orlando might as well have "here there be dragons" scribbled on it as far as Garmin is concerned. The entire neighborhoods of Waterford Lakes and Avalon Park are almost totally missing, and they've been here nearly 20 years. WHAT THE FUCK?!

    If they're this screwed up with places I know about, how much should I trust them in places I don't know? Garmin's right up there with Palm and General Motors on the list of people I'll never buy from again.

    I've always been rather impressed that Google Maps has been the only thing to be consistently correct, and I've only found a half-dozen very minor errors total.

  13. Mark

    Where's Lewis?

    "The report cites the failure of the US Air Force to successfully complete the current GPS IIF satellite program, which has cost $870m (£550m) more than originally estimated and is now three years behind schedule."

    Let the man know that even the yanks perform monumental fuck-ups with their acquisitions. MOD had to get inspiration from somewhere. Perhaps the USAF out-sourced to the MOD?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only bad for city-dwellers

    There should be most satellites most of the time to get your position correctly, as Bruce Hoult remarks in the first comment - but: In an urban landscape, tall buildings can easily block your signal.

    Meaning the remaining satellites will work most of the time perfectly - until you enter New York and need a bunch of satellites in a very constrained field of view - then you may feel the lack of extra satellites.

  15. Nexox Enigma

    Hard to believe...

    Seems hard to believe that GPS could actually fail, since there are so damned many applications which sort of assumed that GPS sats are a given entity for the rest of time. People have mentioned a few unobvious applications, like accurate timing, but I imagine that there are quite a few more out there. I know that GPS has been my answer to a number of questions people asked me, most of which had nothing to do with position finding or timing. And hell, even low orbits use GPS for navigation. I know all of my personal computers sync to one of my GPS units every now and then, just to keep them honest.

    It is always handy to be able to do some navigation with something that's definitely going to exist in the near future - Earth's magnetic field, for instance. Or just a halfway decent sense of direction. And the best way to navigate in LA is to pick a freeway that goes all the way through that mess of a city and don't look back. If you're a non-local you should be keeping your eyes on the car you're about to rear end, the one that's about to rear end you, and the ones trying to get between those two and yourself, not punching in addresses and watching directions on a GPS.

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  17. John Smith Gold badge
    Coat

    A note on cell towers & time signals

    GPS fixes need at least 4 sats in sight of the receiver to do a position fix. However for the time signal you only need 1. The cell tower would not be able to tell where it was. Clearly a problem should aliens abduct a whole cell tower package and dump it somewhere afterwards.

    Otherwise.

    Mine will be the GPS For Dummies in the side

  18. brym
    Thumb Up

    @Gene Cash

    Seems you're the idiot if you aren't confident enough to be able to fall back on a good old fashioned map and compass. Heaven forbid your toys should fail you.

  19. Andrew Moore

    And..

    Galileo won't be up in time either. Hopefully COMPASS might. Anyway, the way you get around this is use a GNSS receiver (GPS+GLONASS+Galileo+COMPASS).

    And remember- GPS IS NOT SATNAV. Satnav uses GPS but so do many other applications.

  20. SuperTim

    @Gene Cash

    In my experience, navigating around orlando is hit and miss anyway, with tourists weaving erratically and suddenly diving off the various freeways and toll roads, ignoring stop signs, waiting at unmanned toll booths because they havent got any change (and because archaic "cash" is still king in the USA). U-turning across 8 lanes of highway traffic because the exit sign is placed exactly on the exit and not a couple of hundred yards before it like any sensible country, occasionally driving on the proper side of the road before suddenly swerving onto the funny side of the road (which was assigned that way specifically to be the opposite of the proper way).

    Well that's what i do anyway......

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Time for a Talking Heads song...........

    We're on a road to nowhere.

    Ha to all those short cutting ass holes who drive 44 tonne artics up my garden path using Satnav !

  22. kevin king
    Thumb Up

    Galileo

    this is why europe has its alternative http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_positioning_system#GPS_and_Galileo

  23. Tezfair
    Happy

    bring it on...

    Then the gov can't introduce PAYG road charging hahahaha

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sure is manly around here

    A REAL MAN FINDS OUT WHERE HE IS THROUGH FORCE OF WILL ALONE.

    No, seriously, that's what all you "Everyone who uses GPS for anything ever is an idiot" people sound like.

  25. Ash
    Thumb Down

    GPS as a navigational AID

    GPS is NOT navigation. There's nothing wrong with an up to date road atlas / A to Z.

    I teach 16 year olds to navigate from OS maps for D of Es' Award. They stop when they don't know where they are, find out where they are, and navigate away.

    If they can navigate featureless peat bogs without GPS, the world can find Telford without it too.

    (Not considering other applications other than consumer navigation here, folks.)

  26. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    re: Maps & Charts

    Ahh, fond memories. Bought an old yacht in Tanzania years ago and a shiny new hand GPS. Set out with my vict^H^H^Hcrrew only to find the engine broke, there was no way in hell I could get a signal and none of the instruments worked except the steering compass. Then that fell off and landed on my foot.

    Ended up sailing 250 miles through reefs using a hand compass and an improvised lead line. My crew left shortly after.

  27. Throatwobbler Mangrove

    Understanding fail

    "This is simply political maneuvering from an interested body"

    This is not correct. The GAO doesn't have any interest in GPS failing or succeeding. It's not a partisan office and there's no advantage for them to say something is knacked or mismanaged when it's not.

  28. DutchOven
    Unhappy

    RE: Only bad for city dwellers

    AC wrote: "...the remaining satellites will work most of the time perfectly - until you enter New York and need a bunch of satellites in a very constrained field of view - then you may feel the lack of extra satellites."

    You mean the exact sort of place where:

    - maps are easily available (maybe even on your phone?)

    - there are likely to be street signs

    - you can ask for directions

    I don't have any devices that use GPS so maybe that's why I am one of the few who can still get from A to B without one. (In ten years maybe that will be an impressive party trick or something!)

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Heart

    Oh well...

    ....we can always flog them access the superior Galileo systems when they go fully live. You know the one the US didn't want launched.

  30. Pete

    Everyone lives a bad news story

    But on the other hand, the GPS system may not die next year. However if you used that topic for a story, no-one would read it. Imagine the headline: "GPS. Still working, no problems expected" Who would waste their time reading a story like that?

    It's only when our dumb, fat and happy existence is threatened, or our over-consuming and technologically dependent lifestyles come under a shadow that we perk up and take notice. Whether it's oil, bird-flu, climate change, swine flu, economic meltdown, a slightly upset tummy, repressive surveillance, inflation, deflation, rocketing house prices, slumping house prices, governmental corruption, extremism, foreign wars, domestic violence, nothing on TV, traffic congestion or eurovision - we love reading about misfortune: especially someone else's.

    I can't help but wonder if the secret to a happy and contented life is to eschew newspapers and TV news and just stick to watching Big Brother and Reality TV - maybe letting your brain rot and have it dribble out of your ears isn't such a high price after all?

  31. raving angry loony

    contracts

    Alternatively, it could be a scare tactic cooked up by the lobbyists in order to ensure that certain overspending irregularities in the GPS upgrade program are ignored in favour of just getting it up there. "Oh woe is us, we need another billion to release a product we actually finished 2 years ago".

    They should threaten to throw the bastards in jail if they don't fulfil their contracts, rather than rewarding them for being criminals.

  32. Daniel Wilkie

    GPS?

    Is this that new fangled thing I've heard about where the sky-gods shout directions at you through a unit in your horseless carriage? Sounds like witchcraft and wizadry to me, it'll never take off.

  33. Pete

    Would that mean the end to war?

    Given that GPS is primarily (some might say "only") a military system, designed to accurately rain down death and destruction on wherever their faulty intelligence tells them to. If the GPS system was allowed to fail, does this mean that the americans aren't planning any more foreign wars for the near future.

    If so, then maybe the entertainment value of not having clueless drivers slavishly following a robotic voice up a countryside dead-end is a worthwhile sacrifice for universal peace?

  34. MinionZero
    Joke

    Thats a good way to make some money...

    Maybe its time to buy shares in A to Z books. :)

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Feeling left out

    Thought I'd pitch in with my comments seeing as most people already have done similar:

    <inane shite>GPS, ah yes I'm a bloke I can navigate without the need for GPS, all the rest of you GPS users are losers and... blah blah blah blah.</inane shite>

    I think the more important feature as someone mentioned earlier is the timing system in GPS, there is no way on earth they will let it fail, too much infrastructure and delivery mechanisms in the military and commercial sectors rely on it.

  36. Andus McCoatover
    Joke

    Wonder why...

    ..I can find the pub without GPS. It's 50 yards away.

    'course, I wonder why I can't find my apartment afterwards without it...

  37. Juan Inamillion

    @Daniel Wilkie

    Excellent!!

    <hearty chuckle>

  38. Andy ORourke
    Joke

    @ Ash

    "If they can navigate featureless peat bogs without GPS, the world can find Telford without it too."

    If they can tell the difference between Telford and a Featureless Peat bog, now that would be impressive :-)

  39. Gaius
    Pirate

    Never underestimate...

    ... the lengths the Air Force will go to to screw with the Army.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Project staff churn

    US staff churn is the bane of my life.

    I spend 6 months getting them trained up on using units properly, so they can ask sensible questions and configure their end systems... and they all get moved onto other projects, and I have to start again from scratch with another Jar head!

  41. James Dore
    Coat

    Chicken Licken says

    The Skynet is falling! The Skynet is falling!

  42. Cameron Colley

    Wow, lots of Luddites!

    While I admit that those in the Military should be able to use a map and compass and that if you're driving somewhere you ought to be able to use the A to Z or a road atlas -- those shouting "USING GPS IS STUPID I CAN USE A MAP" are either genuinely gifted map readers/navigators or missing the point.

    GPS controlled Ships are a new invention used to increase the number of ship and decrease the number of crew needed -- of course every ship could have a navigator with a sextant and a chronograph but that would mean ships would take longer to navigate and the lack of precision may mean longer time between ports.

    Yes, you can count your steps in a combat situation and take bearings -- but if you have GPS that works and your enemy doesn't it could certainly work to your advantage (especially if coupled with very good/satellite mapping).

    Yes, most missiles use terrain matching and inertial sensors to navigate as well as GPS -- but DARPA are struggling to make them work without GPS.

    Yes, if I get lost in down town LA I could consult the map (if I have one) and read road signs (if they haven't been ripped out or turned around) or I could ask those nice men with red bandannas for directions.

    I also seem to recall that flight times between the UK and US have been cut due to improved routes that are largely down to accurate GPS?

    In short: Navigation without GPs is possible -- but is solves problems that a map and compass can't and it enables things that can't be done without it. As someone has said above, saying people should be able to get by without it is about the same as saying "ONLY PANSIES USE GPS -- REAL MEN DON'T NEED NO STINKING GPS".

  43. John Robson Silver badge

    "@" is not a title apparently?

    "I know all of my personal computers sync to one of my GPS units every now and then, just to keep them honest."

    I assume you're accounting for the leap seconds introduced since the start of GPS time - they are not applied to GPS time, only earthbound time uses them...

    And I want GPS to continue - It's nice being able to log my bike rides accurately... Fortunately for me I imagine I will be able to for a good long while, there are plenty of sats, and I'm sure sufficient will be replaced...

  44. Mike Flugennock
    Thumb Up

    Whoa, cool!

    Am I correct assuming this will inhibit the government's ability to track me? That certainly can't be a bad thing.

    As far as all those worried drivers out there...quit bitching and get a friggin' _map_.

  45. Nigel
    Alert

    A cultural problem?

    It seems that there is something almost cultural that prevents Anglo-Saxon nations from being any better than crap at maintenance and incremental upgrade operations. GPS is just the latest in a very long list of technological triumphs that once complete, are then allowed to decay, sometimes to the point of complete collapse.

    There is one big organisation that I can think of that stands head and shoulders above all others in elevating system maintenance and optimization to an art form. No, it's not IBM (though IBM deserves a mention). It's Swiss Railways. Only half in jest, I suggest that the USA enters negotiations with a view to sub-contracting all future maintenance and upgrading of the GPS system to these fine folk.

  46. Jon

    @John Smiths note on cell towers & time signals

    For truely accurate time you will need to know your position (and i'm not talking about time zones). To work out the EXACT time where you are you must work out how long it took the signal to reach you. You do that by knowing exactly where you are. Yes this could be stored once when the tower is created, but to do this acuratly enough you would probably need to use a GPS based method to site the mast anyway

  47. Mark Rogers
    Black Helicopters

    Surveillance

    "Am I correct assuming this will inhibit the government's ability to track me? That certainly can't be a bad thing."

    No the government will still have their spy sats for that sort of thing ;)

  48. Perpetual Cyclist
    Flame

    Just because it is a critical system...

    ...does not mean it cannot fail.

    It will not stop overnight in 2010. If the coverage started dropping to a level that affected military operations, then a satellite would be in orbit in 24 hours.

    However, the US military do not give a monkey's fart about supporting critical civilian infrastructure.

    And in the long run, it will crash and burn, just like the rest of IT.

    http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2009/05/economics-of-decline.html

  49. Jonathon Green
    Paris Hilton

    @Andy ORourke

    "If they can tell the difference between Telford and a Featureless Peat bog, now that would be impressive :-)"

    Telford's in Shropshire while the featureless peat-bog-horror is loads-of-miles away in Cambridgeshire so it's unlikely to be a problem.

    Paris because Peterborough's not in France either...

  50. Tom Silver badge

    The lengths Micsorsoft will go

    to put TomTom out of business.....

  51. Christoph Silver badge

    No problem

    The US is already going to have to buy access to its own space station from the Russians. When their troops need to make sure they precisely target the local infants school, they can buy access to GLONASS.

  52. Christoph Silver badge

    @ Nexox Enigma

    "It is always handy to be able to do some navigation with something that's definitely going to exist in the near future - Earth's magnetic field, for instance."

    Until the next time it drops to zero and comes back with direction reversed.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Chuck Norris Doesn't use GPS

    because he's so tough he stands still and his destination comes to him.

  54. boltar Silver badge

    @charles manning

    >GPS is used as the timing source for numerous applications including cell towers etc.

    >

    >No GPS means no cell phone calls.

    >

    >Sure, you could in theory retrofit every single cell site with a v v v accurate clock, but that's not >going to be viable.

    Umm , riiight. So care to explain how cellular systems worked before GPS came on the scene then?

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Who pays for it and who gains from it?

    From my understanding the Americans run and maintain this system and the whole World uses it for free? Do the people who make the chips that allow the use of GPS pay any contribution towards the running of it, in the ame way a patent tax is applied for using a patent inside a chip/design!

    Of course this isn't anything new, take for example the 2012 Olympic that benefit the whole country - people in the London are get the priveledge of paying a extra charge each month towards this yet get no extra level of access to the games above and beyond anybody else in the country. indeed on balance those in the London area end up paying more than the cost of a 1st class flight from anywere in europe and back and then some towards the games, so even geographicly they get handicapped. But they do get extra chances to get tickets, oh wait, no they dont.

    Back to GPS. If its a World needed thing then those that use it, ie the World should pay for it. Otherwise its a bit unfair and we all know how small unfair things esculate. But hey we are all used to this and false econemies built up upon layer and layer of broker percentages. So only the middle men actualy make any money and so much that it hurts both directions.

    I wouldn't be supprised if the American let it fail in places just to highlight oh yeah you get what you pay for.

    There are many ways to cover this, but fairest and easiest to manage is at the level were a levey is placed upon the chips that enable this. Ok it will cost little more, well actualy it dosn;t cost more its just more fairly costed.

    You do all realises that if France ran and managed the GPS system and were in this state, they would just dwitch it off for a day or two and get your attention directly instead of the indirect approach, gota respect them for that, no matter what you say about the French. That said can also respect that America aint pushing for cash and crying for it. But anyway you look at it, on balance is it fairly financed!!!

    Paris - coz bottom line its a no brainer

    Anon - because its the internet and I dont have MP expense insurance }->

  56. Anonymous John
    Happy

    Trains

    Southern Railway uses GPS to open train doors. This is serious. They may have to bring back slam door trains.

  57. Cameron Colley

    @@charles manning

    I was wondering that myself -- are there really applications where NTP over copper or radio signal from Rugby aren't accurate enough?

    Because if there are it is yet more proof that GPS and it's repercussions are enabling technologies and not just something that replaces maps -- and if not then why the hell is anyone bothering to use GPS for timekeeping?

  58. Anonymous John
    Happy

    @ Trains

    > They may have to bring back slam door trains.

    and buffet cars. Wahay!

  59. Jess Baughan

    @Cameron Colley

    ntp from rugby no longer exists, they pulled down the last of the big masts 2 years ago, from memory its now transmitted from germany

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  63. Charles Manning

    @@@Charles Manning

    The commenter saying that one SV is OK for timing if you know where you are in 3D space is correct. However to get the timing exactly right requires algorithms that communicate with multiple SVs. It also needs the ground stations.

    GPS timing is way more accurate than anything you can get with rugby or ntp over IP though a dedicated wire with no repeaters etc could probably substitute. Running that out to every tower is just not practical. GPS timing is also very cheap with receivers designed for timing applications costing way less than running 50m of cable.

    Precise timing is also used to keep the intertubes flowing

    These applications don't just use GPS to keep your wall clock up to date. They use it as a precise timing source for receiving and transmitting and keeping the signal timing between cell towers etc synchronized.

    nanosecond stuff.

    Rugby doesn't work for these because propagation through the atmosphere is too variable over any reasonable distance.

  64. John Smith Gold badge
    Happy

    @Jon

    "For truely accurate time you will need to know your position (and i'm not talking about time zones). To work out the EXACT time where you are you must work out how long it took the signal to reach you. You do that by knowing exactly where you are. Yes this could be stored once when the tower is created, but to do this acuratly enough you would probably need to use a GPS based method to site the mast anyway"

    No argument here. this is part of the iterative calculations involved in getting a GPS fix.

    However I'm not sure some of those problems apply when the time source is in a fixed location relative to the tower. Doppler shifts and corrections for relativistic effects can be left out. One example would be survey cameras developed in Switzerland which use highly accurate inclinometers to image the sky exactly vertical ( and I think they can work in daylight). From them its a case of using the exact value for the speed of light to calculate a correction at about 3.333ns/m. . This could, in principle, get to 1 m accuracy given a well surveyed (and they should be) site for the time code transmission, coupled with very good pointing.

    Once in place only earthquakes should move it enough to make re-calibration necessary.

  65. Homard
    Paris Hilton

    Why GPS Was Invented In The First Place !

    Forget your military and other applications. There are 2 basic factors behind the invention and development of GPS. Firstly your wife does not have to navigate, so ending the inevitable row that leads to divorce ! Secondly the later generation of navigation units continuously show the estimated time of arrival, which the kids can clearly see from the back of the car, so ending the 'are we nearly there yet ?' question that is the cause of many a family dispute. It can therefore be argued that far from being a tactical military system to aid targetted destruction, GPS is actually a PEACEKEEPING system for the reasons previously given.

    Now, I can read an Ordnance Survey map and follow a compass bearing at night over open terrain with the best of 'em. I learnt how to do this thanks to the Scouts, in a time when kids out at 3am using map and compass was still considered OK. Hell yes you got lost, but you also learnt how to work out where you were, the old fashioned way. And you had some fun at the same time !

    The old fashioned ways will always be there to fall back on, and we need to maintain these skills. One common factor with old and new methods of navigation is the need for accuate maps, be it for helping you work out where you are, or how to get to where you want.

    I like GPS, and hope it's available (or an equivalent system) for many years to come. It is just so useful. My reasons for liking it are many, to list but a few :-

    1) end of arguments with wife over navigation. Worth its weight in gold !!!!!!

    2) end of 'are we nearly there yet ?' question from the kids. Again worth its weight in gold !!!

    3) recording my bike rides. Speed and altitude profiles, so thats why my legs were killing me about 1/3 of the way up that hill ! Good record of training and improvement.

    4) recording my dinghy sailing, particularly on the sea. If a sea mist comes in you can't see anything on the shore and the wind can change direction so you can't use that as a reference. I have a tactical compass (for racing) and combine that with local knowledge to continue sailing whilst not having shore landmarks to use for navigation. GPS just peforms the task of backup navigation system for me in these circumstances. It just verifies that my sailing on a given bearing is taking me where I think I'm going. The compass and local knowledge are the primary navigation as these are the natural way anyone sails a dinghy.

    5) in-car navigation GPS often takes you down roads you would not normally choose if you were using a map or road atlas. If you end up stuck in a river, it's 'not good :-)', but if you end up seeing some wonderful countryside BONUS !

    For reasons 1 and 2 above, I would be quite happy to pay a subscription fee for the use of GPS or a device access fee, and as you see, it gives me other benefits.

    Long live GPS, but I *CAN* live without it.

  66. Steve Evans

    I wonder...

    ...how much the powers that be have bunged this chap to say this...

    I can almost hear the EU reaching for their begging bowls to fund their own (now essential) GPS system...

    Forgive me for being so suspicious, but we're talking about politicians here!

  67. Jimbo
    Alien

    finally

    does this mean that crackheads won't be stealing GPS from my car anymore?

  68. elderlybloke
    Dead Vulture

    Way down south in New Zealand

    A few years ago one of our Air Force Hercules left Antarctica to come back home , and their space age electronic navigation systems went u/s.

    The crew had to drag out a Sextant (fortunately carried onboard) .Also fortunately could remember how to navigate the old way.

    It is a long way from Antarctica to New Zealand and it wouldn't take much of an error to miss the place, and find only great expanse of ocean.

  69. neil
    Happy

    Good!

    Perhaps all the arse'oles who rely on their GPS and when it tells them to do something they just do it without even a look to see if anything/anyone else is in the way will reaquire some visual skills and stop running others off the road!

  70. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge
    Go

    I miss my GPS

    I have an old Magellan, it finally gave up about a year ago. Very handy device.

    I'm a guy, and I'm not afraid to use a GPS. Don't know what that has to do with anything.

    Yes, I know how to read a map. Used to buy a Thomas Guide every year when I was living in S. California in the '80s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Guide I even once helped a GF learn how to read maps.

    I've been using Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, and Mapquest for years. They're great, but they're not perfect either.

    I'll tell you what, though. For me it's comforting to have the GPS there. A Google printout may not help much if you take a wrong turn. Complex intersections can be difficult to describe properly and easy to misunderstand. Whoops! That's a one-way street, going the wrong way. And I find cities particularly difficult; most have wild combinations of odd intersections, one-way streets, bizarre traffic patterns, and lots of distractions all rolled into one. I remember one particularly annoying trip into Philadelphia to see a headhunter -- after four attempts I never found the address, and then on my way out I made a wrong turn and ended up in New Jersey. Which I didn't have any maps for at the time, not having expected to go there. *sigh*

    Having a GPS to help guide me out of mistakes, bad data, unexpected road closings, and so on makes city driving a lot more comfortable for me.

    I have yet to drive into anybody's yard, into any lakes, off any cliffs or over the Atlantic to end up in Surrey because I trusted the GPS and didn't pay attention. I also have enough smarts to stop texting at intersections and look around before crossing.

    YMMV, but the GPS is just a tool just like any other. Use it intelligently and it will be beneficial. Use it badly and you will have problems.

  71. Murray Kirkby

    Lost in cyberspace

    It would seem that many of you posting on here as super navigators seem to have lost your way in cyberspace. Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the Register a site for Tecky geeks and gadget fans. If you eschew all gadgetry in favour of sandals, lentils and old fashioned pen and paper, what the hell are you doing reading this... get out in the country and hug some trees.

  72. Boring Bob
    Thumb Up

    @baza

    "Good old GSM, which is found quite extensively worldwide, even the US, will be juuuuuust fine! Truly GSM is the work of geniuses."

    Invented by the French (Groupe Special Mobile).

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    What if...

    I don't have an iPhone, does this mean that the GPS features will continue to work for me?

  74. Martin
    Paris Hilton

    @ DutchOven

    I remember one time, must have been nearly twenty years ago now, I was young (< 10), and my family was waiting between a wedding and the reception. To keep me amused, my mother was asking how to get from point A to point B (something I seem to recall her doing not infrequently, for the same reason). Apparently, this really impressed the person at the next table over - to be fair, that was probably more to do with my age at the time rather than the lack of GPS or other navigational aid.

    Paris, because she can keep me amused any day.

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