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In the beginning, there was innovation

September 7, 2020  - By
1990: UNB Professor Richard Langley and two graduate students use a GPS antenna (recognize it?) on a tripod to re-measure a historical baseline. (Photo: UNB Perspectives)

1990: UNB Professor Richard Langley and two graduate students use a GPS antenna (recognize it?) on a tripod to re-measure a historical baseline. (Photo: UNB Perspectives)

When GPS World published its first issue in January 1990, only 15 GPS satellites had been launched, including the 10 prototype or Block I satellites. And four of those early satellites had ceased operation. But there had been enough satellites in orbit for more than a decade to permit early commercial and scientific use of the system. There were even handheld receivers for personal navigation, albeit somewhat larger than those we have today. But it was clear that GPS was going to take off in a big way, and that there was a business case for launching a monthly magazine (bimonthly in its first year) about GPS for professionals in the positioning, navigation and timing communities.

The new magazine was to feature a blend of news, product announcements and articles about GPS, including cutting-edge research on GPS technology and its applications taking place at universities and research institutes around the world. That is why Glen Gibbons, the founding editor of GPS World, reached out to the University of New Brunswick (UNB), an early leader in GPS research and education, to manage a column to be called simply “Innovation.” Glen stipulated that “the column should deal with issues that have broad application and interest and are presented in terms that are accessible to as wide a range of readers as possible.”

Four faculty members were engaged in GPS research at UNB back then: David Wells, Alfred Kleusberg, Petr Vaníček (who famously foretold of the GPS watch back in 1983), and me. Dr. Kleusberg and I volunteered to manage the column and to scour academia and government and industry labs to find authors to write the column’s articles — or to write them ourselves, which we sometimes did. Beginning in 1997, I took over as the sole coordinator of the column — a role I have continued to this day.

There have been close to 300 “Innovation” articles since the first one in the premier issue of the magazine. I’ve also contributed to a number of news and feature articles in the magazine over the years. I might just be the longest-serving active GPS “journalist.” I’m still a full-time teaching and research professor at UNB, and recently took over as the editor-in-chief of The Institute of Navigation’s journal NAVIGATION, but I still have time to write for GPS World and hope to continue to serve the magazine in the years to come.

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