Summary of Pinpoint

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  • Innovative


Like the Internet, the Global Positioning System evolved from a military project into an indispensable aspect of everyday life. When you enter a destination into the GPS receiver in your car or smartphone, you access satellite signals that the US armed forces designed to coordinate troop movements, guide fighter jets and help missiles find their targets. As journalist Greg Milner reveals in this comprehensive history, GPS is everywhere: Cities regulate traffic flow using GPS data to synchronize stoplights, and automated tractors follow GPS signals as they traverse farm fields. Milner presents the narrative of GPS technology, from the first attempts to track Russia’s Sputnik satellite with Doppler waves to GPS’s current role maintaining the world’s “critical infrastructure.” Milner is a brisk storyteller who knows how to condense historical events and simplify science without dumbing it down. He paints vivid portraits of the people who developed and marketed GPS. getAbstract recommends his insightful, entertaining overview to students, professors, history and science buffs, as well as to start-up entrepreneurs considering the next blockbuster that depends on GPS technology.

About the Author

Greg Milner’s writing appears in Wired, Salon and Rolling Stone. His Perfecting Sound Forever was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.



Guidance from Above

Since its 1978 debut, the Global Positioning System (GPS) has evolved from a specialized military program into a ubiquitous, indispensable tool of modern life. Today, the satellite-based system provides navigation data to billions of receivers in cars, boats, aircraft, phones and tablets.

The Global Positioning System is now the foundation of a multibillion-dollar industry that includes applications to measure scientific experiments, monitor fleets of trucks, help predict earthquakes, regulate automated farms and synchronize city traffic lights. People are now so dependent on GPS that researchers suspect the technology is reshaping human thought processes.

What Is GPS?

The Global Positioning System is a “constellation” of 31 satellites orbiting thousands of miles above the Earth. Each one emits a continuous radio signal that carries data about the satellite’s position as well as the time that the signal began its journey. When you use a GPS receiver, it seeks out signals from four of these satellites at once. It compares the four signals’ time and location data to calculate the receiver’s latitude and longitude.


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