|Photo by USGS|
In 1995 I bought my first Magellan GPS receiver, and I was amazed that it had the capabilities to direct me to a point (or pinpoint one) to plus or minus a hundred yards! 2000 was an important year for navigators, professional and amateur. That was when selective availability was removed by the U.S. government, which improved GPS accuracy tenfold! Then about 2005 came the W.A.A.S. system, which improved accuracy again. So in a relatively short period, less than ten years, GPS went from football field to about car size accuracy. The cost of having this navigation capability for a person has always been about $100. The GPS satellite service is free.
In 2001 the game of geocaching started to grow. What some people call high tech treasure hunting, geocaching combines the internet with a handheld GPS receiver which lead the player to local and global “treasures”. I often told my 4-H kids that if they could master geocaching, which isn't hard because I've seen ten year old kids become experts in a week; then they would have navigation skills sufficient to guide them to any spot on the globe, like the early explorers did.
Simply stated, GPS allows us to pinpoint places on the globe, and find for that matter, locations that are foreign to us, near or far away, the size of a mountain to as small as a dime. For example, my grandfather, G.A. Johnson originally from Sweden got into an argument with his dad and left his countryside farmstead when he was eighteen (as the story goes). Today as far as I know, my third cousins still live there. But where did he live EXACTLY before coming to America, and if I have distant cousins out there, where are they now? You know if I could only find their house, in person or on Google Earth, I could pinpoint where my Grandpa, Papa Gus grew up. If I only knew. GPS and genealogy can help me here.