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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.

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