Car Navigation Systems Before GPS Were Wonders of Analog Technology

I wouldn’t have guessed that any of this was practical.

Oh, man. Lots of good stuff in that article. I especially like GM’s 1956 vision of 1976. . . that aside, does and app like Google Earth work off of satellites, cell phone towers or a mix. The reason I ask is that I have noticed that there have been times I have had trouble getting a fix on my phone when I was somewhere where I also got no cell phone signal. . .

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The cell phone does not need a terrestrial connection to make a fix, but in latitude/longitude values only. It receives the GPS-satellites’ data directly, and then calculates its position.

As for the maps, the last map, or an often-used map, may be temporarily in the cell phone’s own internal memory, if there is enough free space. Otherwise, the maps can only be downloaded online.

If you plan to travel where connectivity might be an issue, it’s often good to download maps in advance of your travel.


the phones use the cell triangulation to get a fix which is instant to then work out a gps fix. Its way faster especially if your gps receiver doesn’t have a huge number of channels and you have moved since you last used your gps as it has to download an almanac

Agreed about getting maps ahead of time.
Let me check my glove box.:grinning:


…and if there is no possible cell connection?

On one of my older Android phones (maybe 10 years old), I have a navigation app installed, without charts, only worldwide contours of land.

After the lengthy loading of the relevant GPS-satellites, it shows immediately my position as Lat/Long. But not only, it shows, offshore or in a far away forest, my speed and my direction (and hence the direction of the true North).

I always wondered why anyone would want a compass in a car until I got to the USA.

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My favorite method from the old days was the AAA TripTik system. I can’t get the article to load apologies if they mention it.

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I would imagine. . especially the midwest or the desert. . . .

But, out in the square states the roads were designed from scratch and follow a sort of grid arrangement. Unlike New England where they are old cow paths.There is a spot in East Granby, CT where the same bit of road is both 187 South and 189 North. In a lot of New England they don’t even bother with directions, they just call it by where it goers (e.g. in Maine, Rt. 25 going east is “the Portland Road” and going the other way, it’s “the Gorham Road” or in Massachusetts, the name of a road changes from “Lexington St” in Waltham, to “Waltham St” when it crosses the town line with Lexington)


That’s an interesting point wrt land navigation. The one official state highway map I just checked has lat/long coordinates as does the AAA map.

So does the atlas/gazetteer we use most often.

Even without any map a simple GPS phone app can give a bearing and range back to the starting point which might be helpful. Assuming the foresight to start the track function on the app.

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Yeah, driving around in the northeast is very different from most other places in the US. . .

Isn’t it a state law that every car in Maine must have the gazetter? It seems like that. I still have a 1988 copy in my truck, and just bought my daugtehr a new copy for when she goes back to UMaine in the Fall.

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Stan Honey, the founder of Etak (the final section of the OP article) went on to invent the yellow “first down line” on American Football broadcasts as well as many other sports data overlays for baseball, NASCAR, and hockey, and the Americas Cup which earned him a technical Emmy. He also holds many offshore sailing records.

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Is he the guy who is responsible for the flaming red overlay for the puck that the NHL tried in the late 80s or early 90s hoping to expand their TV audience to more than Canadians and a small few Americans? I hated that thing.

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Yeah, that one didn’t last too long. The First Down line and baseball K-Zone are now staples.

Introduced in Japan by Honda in 1981 this “inertial navigation system” used a small helium gas gyroscope and it was more like the systems used by fighter pilots in the Cold War. Inertial navigation systems are based on a pretty simple principle: if you know where you started, you know how far you travelled, and if you know which direction you were headed in, then it should not be difficult to know where you are. Apply that concept continuously, and you’ve got the workings of a basic navigation system. The price of the system was a whopping 25% of the cost of the car!

There is an interesting brief history available on the subject of car navigation. Link here


If it’s not it should be, at least in some cases. The right map can make or break a relationship.

I was in the Kokadjo Trading Post & Convenience Store a few years back, here’s what they have:

  • Snacks
  • Groceries
  • Soda
  • Milk
  • Gas
  • Motor Oil
  • 2-Cycle Oil
  • Propane
  • Emergency Parts
  • Beer & Wine
  • Souvenirs

What they don’t have evidently is good maps. I was in the store one summer day a few years back (looking for a cold Moxie presumably) when a young couple came in and the young man asked the clerk if they had maps. She pointed them out but the young man did not like the selection, lost his cool a bit and raised his voice as to why a store in the middle of nowhere wouldn’t have a decent map for sale.

I suspected it was the couple’s first overnight camping trip, and from the look on the young lady’s face probably the last one as well.

So, are the abbreviated DeLorme maps not as good as the gazeteer?

I see that the population of Kokadjo is now “not many.” I used to pass through there occasionally and recall their having a sign out front that read “Population: 3.”

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