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Global Positioning Systems Demystified
By: Barzan "Tony" Antal
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    Table of Contents:
  • Global Positioning Systems Demystified
  • How Do They Work?
  • Tech Details
  • User GPS Devices
  • Final Words

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    Global Positioning Systems Demystified

    (Page 1 of 5 )

    Have you heard the latest buzz about GPS devices? Global positioning systems are spread all over the market in numerous forms: from watches, cell phones, PDAs, up to dedicated devices that are installed and integrated into automobiles, airplanes, military units and so forth. With the sudden breakthroughs in this technology, these systems clearly earned their reputation within the user range, too. Read on to find out more!

    In this article we will delve into the global positioning system. First, I am going to briefly present their history, then describe in layman's terms how they work. Ultimately we will emphasize their practicality, examine a few devices, go into their pros and cons, and in closing, I will point out a few of the manufacturers that have a bright future.  

    Brief History

    Throughout history human kind has always been looking for different ways to improve their ability to comprehend the vastness of our planet. The first maps date back 8,000 years. Right now, the global positioning system grants us the ability to localize ourselves everywhere with respectable precision. How's that for a change compared to a compass and old dusty maps?

    It all started back in 1973 when the DoD (United States Department of Defense) decided to place the GPS plan in action. It consisted of 24 satellites: 21 necessary and 3 for backup. It took decades before each of the satellites were successfully in orbit. In January 1994, the whole 24 satellite constellation was ready and, therefore, the GPS was already in working condition. In April 1995, it was declared fully operational.

    Originally as a project it was destined for military applications, however in the '80s the U.S. government made the system available for civilian use. It is worth mentioning that for enhanced user performance another modern satellite was launched in 2005. Ultimately, at the time of this writing, the latest launch was on 17 November 2006. Also, the number of satellites totals 30: 24 original + 6 additional.

    Furthermore, the system right now is in excellent condition and works on a 24/7 basis anywhere in the world regardless of weather conditions. It does this while maintaining enhanced precision, of course. We will talk about their accuracy in a later chapter.

    Notes: the last satellite entered the GPS orbit constellation in April 2007.

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