An Introduction to Global Positioning Systems: Where in the World and What

An Introduction to Global Positioning Systems: Where in the World and WhatGlobal Positioning Systems, or GPS, will change the way we find our way around town—and around the world.  GPS will change the way surveyors, foresters, and highway engineers do their work, and change the way hikers, bird watchers, fisherman, and hunters enjoy their leisure time.   And these changes will be due to one simple ability, something never before possible without expensive and burdensome equipment: the ability to determine location—not approximate, but exactly.

For the first time in history, anyone making a small investment in equipment can find and map any location on earth, with an accuracy once available only to a select few.  Information that until now could only be guessed at, or laboriously measured, will be available as a matter of course.  It is easy to see how GPS can substitute for a compass, or quickly provide an accurate map.  But we can only guess at the day-to-day changes that GPS will bring about.

Automobiles changed life in the United States by making travel quick, easy, and convenient, but Henry Ford and his compatriots did not in their wildest dreams imagine how automobiles would change the way we live.  Highways span the country and the globe.  Housing and business patterns follow roads.  Banks and fast-food restaurants have drive-up windows, and even air travel has been made more practical because automobiles provide access to airports.  Today, we are in the same position with respect to GPS.  In this short book, we hope to introduce the terminology and equipment that will let you understand GPS, and—most importantly—show you how to use it.

We have tried to cover the major areas of GPS use, from hiking to surveying, as clearly as possible.  This is not a technical manual.  Other books cover the theory and all the equations.  Our aim is to help you, the reader, become a competent user of GPS—for it is in your hands that the future of Global Positioning Systems will take shape.

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Revised: 04/17/2001