Navigation History

Looking Back at 25 Years of Commercial GPS

It's hard to believe, but the first consumer GPS units went on sale 25 years ago. Both the initial development of GPS for militaristic purposes and the gradual move to grant civilian access make for a fascinating story, one that involves the Korean Airlines flight 007 and Space Shuttle Challenger tragedies as well as the ongoing efforts of scientists, military officers, and elected officials. Mashable has a thorough recounting of the slow but relentless process that made it possible for GPS to be a fundamental part of countless consumer products and services.

Navigation History: 400 Years of Globes

Attention history buffs! If your interest in navigation goes beyond GPS, be sure to check out the new book Globes: 400 Years of Exploration, Navigation, and Power by Sylvia Sumira. The book contains 120 color plates revealing the history of globe-making going all the way back to the fifteenth century. The University of Chicago Press characterizes the book as follows: "Showcasing the impressive collection of globes held by the British Library, Sumira traces the inception and progression of globes during the period in which they were most widely used—from the late fifteenth century to the late nineteenth century—shedding light on their purpose, function, influence, and manufacture, as well as the cartographers, printers, and instrument makers who created them." Visit for a complete book review.  Related: Learn more about Bellerby Globemakers, a London-based shop that is continuing the tradition of beautiful, hand-made globes.

First Satellite in Modern GPS Fleet Launched 25 Years Ago

From in-vehicle units to portable navigation devices to smartphones, GPS has become a constant part of our lives. But the pre-GPS world, especially for civilians, wasn't that long ago. Friday, February 14, 2014 marked the 25th anniversary of the launch of the first satellite in the modern GPS fleet (Block II Series). Today, the network is comprised of over 30 satellites. In addition to GPS, Russia's GLONASS is fully operational and China (Beidou), Europe (Galileo), and India (IRNSS) are currently developing their own programs. Check out a complete overview of the various navigation satellite networks on You can also find more about last week's GPS anniversary on

Mapping the Sounds of New York City in the "Roaring Twenties"

We commonly think of maps as tools for visual orientation. But the Roaring Twenties web site provides an interactive map depicting the soundscape of New York City in the 1920s. Visitors can click on various points on a city map and hear historical recordings that correspond to the particular place. Tug boat horns, church bells, street performers, jackhammers, street traffic—the sonic identity of the city at that time comes to life. Many of the sounds are presented via Fox Movietone Newsreel footage from 1926-1930. These videos provide a striking visual accompaniment to the sounds. In addition, around 350 historical documents and hundreds of newspaper clippings facilitate the site's mission to present "not just the sound of the past but also its sonic culture."