These days, most of us rely on a GPS system to get around – and for good reason.
All it takes is the push of a couple of buttons, and a few seconds wait, then you are given not only up to date directions on how to get somewhere, but you are given the quickest possible route. We have become so reliant on GPS navigation systems, that many of us do not know any other way. But what if your GPS system was not an option. Let’s say your phone battery dies, and you need to find your way home, what will you do? Below are some tips for finding you way around without a GPS. While you will probably have a GPS available to you most of the time, knowing these few tips may just come in handy one day.
1. Maps – This is the obvious choice. As the years have gone by, folded up paper maps have gone by the wayside. But if you are without a GPS, they can really come in handy. They have marked on them all of the major roads, and that combined with the street signs around you, should be enough to get you near your location at the least. It is not a bad idea to have one of these maps folded up and stored in your glove compartment, just in case.
2. Ask For Directions – While many people try to avoid this option, it is really one of the best. If you don’t know the area you are in, ask someone who does. Gas stations are perfect for this, as they usually have someone standing outside working, so you can just pull up and ask them real quick. If you can’t find a gas station, a hotel is another good option. Hotel employees usually know the surrounding area pretty well in order to help guests, so they should be able to help you find your way. Don’t worry about looking foolish when asking for directions. Instead of getting yourself more lost, simply pull over and get them now so you can be on your way.
3. Know The Compass – No matter where you are, it is a good idea to know the compass points relative to the way you are facing. Knowing which way is North, South, East or West can really help you find your way around, whether you are driving or walking. If you are not sure, remember that the sun sets in the West and rises in the East. You can use the sun’s location and the time of day to help you determine which way you are facing.
4. Night Sky – Lastly, if you want to know the compass points but you are out at night, you can use the night sky to get around. This trick has been used for centuries, so it should work for you too. Just locate the North star, and you will know which way you are facing by deducing the other points. The North star is usually the brightest in the sky, so take a look around and see if you can find it.
For many people growing up in this time period, they will have no idea what it is like to be lost. All they will need to do is push a few buttons on their phone, or on their car’s built in computer, and instantly they will be given directions where they need to go. So many of us have become dependent on these GPS systems, that we don’t even remember how we used to get around. We are so used to the GPS system being available, that we often take it for granted. But just how do these systems work? How are they able to know exactly where you are, and then give you directions to your desired destination? Below, we will try and clear some of that up.
GPS stands for Global Positioning System. Currently up in outer space there is a constellation of 27 different satellites orbiting the earth. They are arranged in such a way that at any moment, there are 4 of them covering any place on earth. When you ask for directions, either through your phone, car computer, or some other device, that device is acting as a GPS Receiver. It sends out a signal to these 4 overhead satellites, and measures the distance to all of them. Using a process called trilateration it can pinpoint your exact location anywhere on earth. As you move the receiver continues to send out a signal to the satellites so that it can update your location in real time.
When the receiver sends out a signal to the satellite, it is sending out a radio wave. Since these radio waves travel at the speed of light, the two devices can measure how long it took the signal to arrive, then do some calculations to determine the exact distance it would have traveled based on that timing. By doing this process with at least 3 different satellites – usually 4 – your receiver can get an exact location on you. If they tried to use only one or two satellites, the measurement would be very inaccurate. You could be in one of several hundred different locations. 3 satellites are required to get a precise spot, but 4 are usually used to ensure accuracy.
In order to figure out how long it took the signal to reach the satellite, the two of them will each start a timer at the exact same moment. Then, the signal will be sent out, and the time delay between the two timers will allow the devices to know how long it took the signal to get there. With the distance now determined, the process is repeated for all 4 satellites until your location is finalized.
With your location determined, the computer will then use its own internal software to compute your route. It will run through hundreds – maybe thousands – of different scenarios for paths you could take, then it will come back to you with the most desirable one – usually the shortest.
All of these computations happen within the space of a few seconds. You don’t have to wait long these days for the receiver to locate you, then for the computer to give you directions. No longer will we have to pull over to get directions, when we can have a computer do it for us in just a few seconds.