In researching my book, I came across many accounts of how GPS was supposed to have developed. Researching primary sources revealed a different story. Alas, journalists generally have not done the work to find these sources and have accepted inaccurate stories. An example is presented here.
Brad Parkinson was the first head of the GPS Joint Program Office (1973-8). He is frequently called the father or inventor of GPS. I think this is inaccurate. GPS largely stems from my Dad’s Timation program. I won’t argue that in depth here (read my book), but I will examine one of his claims. In a May-June 2010 GPS World article, Dr. Parkinson states:
- The fundamental 621B concept of simultaneous passive ranging to four satellites would be the underlying principle of the new system proposal, ensuring that user equipment would not require a synchronized atomic clock.
Compare this with Phil Klass’s August 20, 1973 article in Aviation Week and Space Technology:
Fortunately, there are some technical similarities in the USAF and Navy approaches to the problem. For example, both would determine position by making simultaneous measurements of distance (range) from user to each of several satellites.
Both my Dad’s Timation and the AF/Aerospace used this approach. Parkinson has denied this for many decades (see the last slide of this presentation), but his own 1974 document states that Timation was a program for 3D navigation. The 1971 Timation Development Plan shows a drawing of four satellites sending signals to an airplane ( see page 16 of the pdf figure 3-1 in the report). It’s amazing the contrast between primary sources and peoples’ later claims.