"I can remember when the first pulsars were discovered. I was able to go and sit down and listen to graduate students talking about what their theories, to explain what pulsars really were."
- Vernor Vinge
Position Locator Display
Screen shows the position of hundreds of aircraft;
The Position Locator
A BUZZER sounded somewhere under his desk. Worthington turned to regard the illuminated screen; my eyes followed his and I beheld, on the surface of the oblong device, hundreds of tiny moving specks. I leaned forward to observe them closely; the specks were the locations of aircraft in flight! I was astonished, and regarded the screen with curiosity. I saw the familiar coast lines of the United States. Canada, at the north, loomed almost solid, except for the occasional hair-like lines that revealed her rivers; the Great Lakes fairly glistened. Gazing toward the east, I beheld the rugged coast line of Maine. Then an area which seemed fairly liquid stood between the Atlantic seaboard of the United States and the British Isles, to represent the Atlantic Ocean. Here and there, over the land and water shadings, were the tiny specks that revealed the exact locations of every aircraft in flight over the territory exposed on the uncanny screen.
Jack Worthington regarded their movements for an instant, and with a finger he traced the forward motion of a small speck. It seemed to glow intermittently, as though signalling by flash. He grasped a small disc-like object from a hook and placed it to his ear; with his free hand he pulled closer to him another small round object that stood on a low pedestal. I continued to watch the flashing of the dot on the screen.
“Los Angeles talking,” he said into the instrument: “What’s wrong. Eastern Star?”
“...That’s quite an instrument you have there. Jack,” I said, nodding at the screen.
“International holds all patents to that position locator,” he said : “It is somewhat of an invention, although little has yet been said about it. On it we can locate every one of our ships in the air, no matter where they are. If rival ships are equipped with low-wave detectors we can also spot their positions. Each one of our ships broadcasts continuously on private wavelengths by noctotelevision, which gives us their location over any part of the globe. We have ships in the air practically everywhere, you know, and with our own detector we can get the location of every ship in half the world at a time.”
He faced the instrument again and twisted a small dial on a panel underneath the screen. Its glow died for an instant and then across it flashed a new map.
“There,” he said with finality, “you see the other side of the globe, from Los Angeles to Cairo. Here’s the Hawaiian Islands; farther west is the Orient, Japan here and China there. Further on there is Manchuria; Siberia and Russia over there. These white dots are International Airway Express ships; while all others belong to rival companies.