GPS inventors are my heroes

By John Toth
Bulletin Publisher

I have been saying all along that the GPS (Global Positioning System) had to be invented by a guy. Women would not have done it because they don’t mind asking for directions. Guys hate it.

I was half-way right. It was invented by two guys – Stanford University professor Bradford Parkinson and the late Ivan Getting.

Getting (1912-2003) conceived the idea of a GPS. While serving as vice president of research and engineering at the Raytheon Corp. during the 1950s, he advanced the concept of using a system of satellites to allow the calculation of precise positioning data for rapidly moving vehicles, ranging from cars to missiles, according to the Feb. 18, 2004 issue of the Stanford Report.

Parkinson created and ran the NAVSTAR GPS Joint Program Office from 1972 to 1978. As the program’s first manager, he was the chief architect of GPS throughout the system’s conception, development and implementation.

I think I speak for all men in the world when I say, thank you. You have saved us from embarrassment and having to do things we don’t like.

Many of us tend to equate asking for directions as being defeated by the map, which we also hate reading. So, we disguise for as long as possible that we are hopelessly lost.

We then hope that by a stroke of luck we happen on the right path again.

Even if we stop and ask for directions, by the time we get back in the car, they’re forgotten. We really didn’t listen when the store clerk in great detail explained which way to turn and when. So, we’re still lost, and now we can’t go back to the same place to get the directions again. You can see how messy things can get.

When we make the second or third wrong turn, our female companions tend to start telling us where we can go.

A GPS doesn’t do that. It just says, “recalculating.”

I noticed though that the nice pleasant voice of my GPS turns somewhat less pleasant when there is a need to recalculate.

It becomes nice again when it figures out how to go the other way .. the man’s way.

What it should be saying is: “I told you three times to turn … three *%#@ times. Don’t you listen to anything?”

When I was driving in Europe in July, my greatest fear, while I was mastering the city streets and highways, was that I would lose my GPS. I relied on it completely. It never missed a beat. Every turn was accurate, every destination correct. I looked like I have been driving those roads for years.

That GPS stayed with me all the time everywhere I went. It went with me to the bathroom.

My second greatest fear was that it would break while I was in the middle of nowhere. In Europe, that would have required some extensive directions, because nothing leads from Point A to Point B without something in-between to screw things up.

I flew to Colorado to get away from all of this Gulf Coast heat for a while, and again, the GPS was the centerpiece of my geek bag.

After driving in Europe for two weeks, Colorado was a piece of cake, thanks to my GPS. It’s not that I couldn’t survive without it, but it’s a lot easier this way.

I have a back-up in the U.S., though. There is another GPS on my phone.

Thank you again, Getting and Parkinson, for this great invention. In my opinion, it’s the best invention since sliced bread, which was really not such a big deal.

Someone decided to slice the bread, and there it was, invention finished. But that’s another story for another day.