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I was expecting a jetpack…

August 17, 2020  - By

When I was a kid in the 1960s, I was entranced by the vision of the future. Decades later, we’re here, with personal jetpacks nowhere in sight. What gives?

Photo: Photo: ridvan_celik/E+/Getty Images

Photo: Photo: ridvan_celik/E+/Getty Images

When I was a kid in the 1960s, I was entranced by the vision of the future offered by science fiction books, movies, television shows and comics. Advances in technology would deliver us so many wonders — flying cars, hoverboards, robot servants. Disneyland was in on it, with an entire section of the park named Tomorrowland and its now-quaint “Carousel of Progress” attraction.

But the coolest thing would be that jetpack. You could slap it on your back and take off into the atmosphere, traveling wherever you wished like a bird. Certainly by the distant year 2020, we would all be jetting around the atmosphere from place to place.

(It didn’t occur to me that would mean strapping an actual jet engine to my body, along with highly flammable jet fuel. Where’s the fun in that?)

Decades later, we’ve all arrived in the “future,” with personal jetpacks nowhere in sight. What gives?

Then again, what I didn’t imagine in our future was a system that could pinpoint my exact location anywhere on the globe, estimate my time of arrival, and tell me about the traffic up ahead.

Back in the 1960s, that was seriously science fiction. Nor did we accurately predict the effect that capability would have on our daily lives. GPS along with internet-capable smartphones have thrust us into the Information Age.

The internet is a promise delivered, in its own way. Having a repository for all of the world’s information was another future concept, but usually envisioned with a giant worldwide computer that eventually turned on its makers.

As for flying cars, we are gradually getting there. Drone technology, supported by GNSS technology for its navigation, has led to unmanned craft and is heading toward vehicles capable of transporting people. We just need to be a little more patient.

In the spirit of looking back and ahead, check out our 30th Anniversary Supplement, which arrived with this issue. In it, experts from across the industry share memories and thoughts, and gaze into their crystal balls to predict the future of GNSS.

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.