Did Arthur C. Clarke Predict GPS?

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke described a satellite-based system "whereby anyone on earth could locate himself" in this letter dated August, 1956. Was Clarke the first person to figure out the basic idea for the Global Positioning System - GPS?


(Clarke describes GPS)

...My general conclusions are that perhaps in 30 years the orbital relay system may take over all the functions of existing surface networks and provide others quite impossible today. For example, the three stations in the 24-hour orbit could provide not only an interference and censorship-free global TV service for the same power as a single modern transmitter, but could also make possible a position-finding grid whereby anyone on earth could locate himself by means of a couple of dials on an instrument about the size of a watch. (A development of Decca and transistorisation.) It might even make possible world-wide person-to-person radio with automatic dialling. Thus no-one on the planet need ever get lost or become out of touch with the community, unless he wanted to be. I'm still thinking about the social consequences of this!

But as for details of frequencies and powers, I'll have to leave that to the experts to work out; I'll get on with my science fiction and wait to say "I told you so!"

Sincerely,
Arthur C Clarke

As far as I know, the first working satellite navigation system was called TRANSIT or NAVSAT (Navy Navigation Satellite System). This system was developed by the US Navy to help ballistic missile submarines locate themselves. TRANSIT was developed starting in 1958, soon after Sputnik was launched. In late 1957, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory scientists analyzed the Doppler shift of Sputnik's signal to determine its orbit. Frank McClure, the chairman of APL's Research Center, suggested that if the satellite's position were known and predictable, the Doppler shift could be used to locate a receiver on Earth. TRANSIT went into operation in 1964 following the testing and launch of the ten necessary satellites (at any given time, five were required for operation).

Also, read more about Clarke's geosynchronous satellite idea, which did seem to have some real-world implications as well.

From Letters of Note via Dvice.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/28/2010)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 4 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Nifty New SDS Space Debris Sensor For ISS
'Their radars... could easily pinpoint the debris of the early Space Age.' Arthur C. Clarke, 1978.

NanoRacks Space Station Module Concept Validated
Space junk into space architecture.

Interstellar Asteroid Visits Our Solar System
'This asteroid had whirled in from the cold of the interplanetary space...' - Ray Cummings, 1930.

UM Hall Thruster Breaks Records
Someday, we'll see an ion drive used to get to Mars.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Orwell's Memory Hole Looms Larger Thanks To Nvidia
'All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary.'

Pipefish Robot Checks Pipes Cheap
Just like capsule endoscopy, but for bigger pipes. That go underground.

Nifty New SDS Space Debris Sensor For ISS
'Their radars... could easily pinpoint the debris of the early Space Age.'

NanoRacks Space Station Module Concept Validated
Space junk into space architecture.

Nuclear Drones Could Fly For Years
'I sent my eyes on their rounds and tended my gallery of one hundred-thirty changing pictures...'

SciFiQ Science Fiction Writing Aid
'Books were just a commodity that had to be produced, like jam or bootlaces.'

Robot Only Faster, Not Better, At Recycling
'Whenever a robot finds something it can't identify straight off... it puts whatever it is in the hopper outside your window.'

Poland Starts With 1000 Warmate 'Suicide Drones'
'Royal Security had told the pods to electrocute you or blast you into chum.'

Dream Of Building Your Own Rocket?
Fiorello Bodoni, you inspire all of us.

Zero Mass 'Vaporators' Pull Drinking Water From The Air
Did you think of Star Wars?

Elon Musk Fears A 'Fleet-Wide Hack' Of Autonomous Vehicles
'Khan grinned. 'It's alive! Bu-wahhahahah!''

China Melts Tibetan Permafrost To Plant Forest
'Can you give us a microwave spotlight?'

iFlytek Doctor Robot First To Pass Medical Exams
Doctor shortage? No problem, we'll just use the autodoc.

Slaughterbot AI KIller Quadcopter Drones
'The real border was defended by... a swarm of quasi-independent aerostats.'

Do We Really Want Backflipping Robots?
Also includes wonderful blooper reel.

RNA-Based Biocomputing Device
Living things can sense and analyze complex signals in living cells.

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.