|First, What is GPS (Global
Positioning System) ? To put it simply, it is a network of 24 satellites
placed in orbit whose sole purpose is to tell you where you are. There
are no subscription fees or setup charges, it is free. They were
originally intended for the military and defense but are now available
anywhere in the world at any time of day.
So, how does it work? Well, it all goes back to latitude and longitude. Latitude and Longitude are spherical coordinates on the surface of the earth. These lines serve as an imaginary grid that geographers use to pinpoint locations on earth. This "grid system" was made a long time ago but it is the heart of GPS systems today.
So, why the science lesson? You probably have bought a GPS device and just want to know how to use it. Well, bear with me here, once you understand the principles of how a GPS works, you might be able to use yours more effectively.
OK, let me start at the beginning. Let me explain WHY I started this article in the first place. I've been using my GPS for over a year now and I have highly praised it as the best "toy" I ever bought. Over the summer I have had many people ask me questions about their GPS's, often complaining that they can't use it the way they want to.
The common complaints are
There are other complaints and
concerns, but they usually are a result of confusion. So, my response to
these complaints are, "YOU'RE DAMN RIGHT, IT IS CONFUSING".
OK, here is the deal. This is my approach to learning how to use a GPS.
There is a wide variety of GPS's, and a wide variety of price ranges too. Some have large screens with color maps, and fancy menus, and talk to you, while others are small with black and white screens.
But guess what? Here is what important. The most important thing a GPS does regardless of it's cost and fancy features, is TELL YOU WHERE YOU ARE ON THE PLANET AT THE MOMENT. Let me emphasize that again. Whether you spent $1000 or $200, the most important thing a GPS does is tell you where you are on the planet at the moment. Without that ability, the machine is pretty much useless.
From the most expensive to the least expensive, a GPS tells you where you are. How does it tell you where you are ? With latitude and longitude. That is how. Regardless of what you paid for your GPS, EVERY ONE gives your position on this planet earth in latitude and longitude.
A GPS, any GPS, receives signals from the satellites, using a simple small calculator built-in the GPS, it determines in numbers of latitude and longitude where you are on the planet.
Every single GPS does this. It is the heart of the system. Believe it or not, the rest of what a GPS does is glitter. Everything else besides these numbers of longitude and latitude, is add-ons.
I'll give you a "for
instance" When I turn my GPS on, my relatively low end GPS tells me
in numbers where I am, it will read 43.108761 and -75.275004. A high
priced fancy one will take those numbers, relate them to a map in it's
built-in computer, and a voice will tell you "You are on Cross St.
in Yorkville New York".
All this brings me to questions I've been asked like "How do I make a route" or "I don't like the route my GPS gave me, I want to change it". I will answer these questions, but we must learn a little more before I can explain it.
NEXT LESSON - WAYPOINTS & ROUTES
You bet your butt there is going to be homework!
Homework: Enter the coordinates
to my house as a waypoint on your GPS
TIP: No joke! If you can enter those coordinates into your GPS as a waypoint you are well on your way to using your GPS more effectively. Seriously, if it is not in your GPS manual, and if you have to call Garmin, or Magellan, and use their help line, then do it. It is that critical.