How Global Positioning System, or GPS, changed the world

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This invention “saves millions of lives every year; it saves billions of dollars in better farming and more efficient travel; it eliminated carpet bombing during war time; and the Internet would collapse under its own weight; real time banking transactions would be impossible without it; and cellphone usage would be severely limited.” This is the introduction in the 2018 documentary, “The Lonely Halls Meeting,” which honors the inventors of GPS or the Global Positioning System.

A 1958 Superior graduate, Gaylord Green, was one of those inventors and is featured in the hour-and-a-half long documentary which is currently available for viewing online. GPS provides geolocation and time information to a receiver anywhere on or near Earth to four or more GPS satellites.

The seed for the invention of the GPS started when the Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik 1 in 1957. Two American physicists, William Guier and George Weiffenbach at John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, decided to monitor its radio transmissions. Within hours they realized that, because of the Doppler Effect, they could pinpoint where the satellite was along its orbit.

FRANK McCLURE, who was the deputy director of the lab, asked them to investigate the inverse problem, and pinpoint the user’s location — given that of the satellite. This led to the first technological generation of GPS. In the beginning it was referred to as 621B, and Dr. Brad Parkinson was hired as the program manager to further develop the system.

Parkinson hired a small team of Air Force contractors and officials to further develop the system. One of those individuals was Green, who had recently graduated from the Stanford University graduate program in aeronautics. Green was hired as the space segment design program manager.

Over Labor Day weekend in 1973, the team met in a fifth floor conference room at the Pentagon and sketched out what was to become the modern day Global Positioning System, of GPS. That meeting became known as the Lonely Halls Meeting because the building was virtually empty due to the holiday weekend.

The system was officially launched by the U.S. Department of Defense in 1973 for use by the U.S. military and became fully operational in 1995. It was allowed for civilian use in the 1980s, and has forever changed the face of technology in today’s world.

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