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You Are Here: From the Compass to GPS, the History and Future of How We Find Ourselves [NOOK Book]

Overview


The story of the rise of modern navigation technology, from radio location to GPS—and the consequent decline of privacy

What does it mean to never get lost? You Are Here examines the rise of our technologically aided era of navigational omniscience—or how we came to know exactly where we are at all times. In a sweeping history of the development of location technology in the past century, Bray shows how radio signals created to carry ...
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You Are Here: From the Compass to GPS, the History and Future of How We Find Ourselves

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Overview


The story of the rise of modern navigation technology, from radio location to GPS—and the consequent decline of privacy

What does it mean to never get lost? You Are Here examines the rise of our technologically aided era of navigational omniscience—or how we came to know exactly where we are at all times. In a sweeping history of the development of location technology in the past century, Bray shows how radio signals created to carry telegraph messages were transformed into invisible beacons to guide ships and how a set of rapidly-spinning wheels steered submarines beneath the polar icecap. But while most of these technologies were developed for and by the military, they are now ubiquitous in our everyday lives. Our phones are now smart enough to pinpoint our presence to within a few feet—and nosy enough to share that information with governments and corporations. Filled with tales of scientists and astronauts, inventors and entrepreneurs, You Are Here tells the story of how humankind ingeniously solved one of its oldest and toughest problems—only to herald a new era in which it’s impossible to hide.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
06/01/2014
Boston Globe technology reporter Bray provides an overview of the social history of technologies used for cartography, navigation, and determining exact locations, beginning with the ancient navigators who looked to the stars for guidance and progressing through to our modern devices that look upward toward GPS satellites (as well as cellular towers and Wi-Fi signals). Many developments along the way were spurred by the need for military advantage, whether that involved communicating with distant troops, accurately mapping enemy positions, or guiding destructive weaponry precisely to its target. As location technology becomes smaller and cheaper, Bray shifts his focus to the corporate world, in which tech companies vie for more accurate maps, better algorithms, and greater ubiquity on consumers' devices. Modern electronics not only allow consumers to know where they are at all times, he points out, they also open up new possibilities for surveillance and loss of privacy. Bray explores the social implications of these changes in the final chapters. He does an exceptional job of integrating technical details and personal stories and framing chapters around specific problems and solutions. VERDICT A superlative choice for technology buffs who want a historical perspective on location and navigation technologies.—Wade M. Lee, Univ. of Toledo Lib.
Publishers Weekly
05/12/2014
Technology writer Bray asserts that "mankind has essentially solved the problem of location." It is now difficult, if not impossible, to get ourselves lost—and, more significant for Bray, to be free and invisible in our movements and actions. The book maps how we reached this point of highly accurate wayfinding and limited locational privacy, reaching as far back as Egyptian stellar navigation and the Lapita people navigating the Pacific by the motion of the waves. Each chapter describes innovations in the "rigorous science of location." We learn of the harnessing of radio waves and their implementation in aerial warfare; the creation of the gyroscope and its use in sea and air navigation; the development of navigation by artificial satellites and then GPS; the launch of spy planes and satellites capable of photographing great tracts of land; and, more recently, the capabilities and potential of crowd-sourced mapmaking and constant locational awareness via smartphone. These achievements are impressive and the book acknowledges this, but it also notes and cautions the result of always knowing exactly where we are: "others know as well, whether we like it or not." Bray offers accessible explanations of complex innovations but his overall coverage of the topic too simplistic especially when describing modern technology and social implications. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

“A superlative choice for technology buffs who want a historical perspective on location and navigation technologies.”
Library Journal

“[A] breezy history of our ever-dwindling ability to lose our way.”
Wall Street Journal

“Bray provides an entertaining account of how our ancestors learned to find their way around their neighborhood, then around a larger area, then around the world.”
Roanoke Times

“Bright, well-written and highly informative.”
–Kirkus

“This book is a fascinating journey through the development of modern navigational systems and the brilliant foresight of the inventors. Definitely an entertaining read.”
—John Huth, author of The Lost Art of Finding Our Way

You Are Here is a wonderful book, with lots of engaging stories about the engineers and engineering that have brought us the magical navigational gadgets that keep us on track. Ironically, this excellently written book is one to get lost in.”
—Henry Petroski, author of The Essential Engineer and The House with Sixteen Handmade Doors

“Hiawatha Bray’s thrill ride through the world of GIS, Google Earth, and location tracking helps us understand how the e-maps that shoved aside the familiar paper map are both a convenience and a threat.”
—Mark Monmonier, author of How to Lie with Maps

“From Foucault to Foursquare, the history of location technology is one of graft, ingenuity and, ultimately, shopping. Hiawatha Bray maps out the journey with clarity and wit, and ends with a warning: now we know where we are, do we really want to be here? A timely, searching book if ever there was.”
—Simon Garfield, author of On the Map

Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-12
A history of the navigational tools that tell us where we are. In his debut, Boston Globe technology reporter Bray notes that for most of human history, we lacked maps and navigational tools. Early sailors relied on the wind and waves to get their bearings. In Europe, maps first appeared on Spanish cave walls 14,000 years ago. Today, "mankind has essentially solved the problem of location" due to a remarkable spate of navigational innovation in the 20th century, much of it prompted by the demands of the two world wars. Beginning in ancient times with the great cartographer Ptolemy, Bray recounts the story of mapping and navigational systems through the work of an array of inventors, engineers and entrepreneurs. In the 16th century, mapmaker Gerhard Mercator made it possible to plot an accurate course at sea. In the early 20th century, inventor Elmer Sperry created gyroscopes to steer aircraft and cruise missiles. In the 1990s, Stephen Poizner perfected the phone-based GPS technology that turned smartphones into portable navigators. Indeed, GPS, born in the Cold War, "has indelibly altered the way we live and work and travel." Bray also describes the development of WiFi navigation; the eye-level, street-by-street views of Google Maps; and the Google Earth images, which allow us to see our own homes as well as the Parthenon and the Grand Canyon. The author provides fascinating stories on the use of these technologies, from the mapping of North Korea by amateur cartographers to the "crisis mapping" that redraws the maps of a country in the wake of a disaster. Bray calls for limits on government use of advanced location techniques to track citizens, noting that police departments now "keep tabs on us with almost Orwellian diligence." It takes just three months' worth of location data for a researcher to predict a person's next move with accuracy. Bright, well-written and highly informative.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465080984
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 4/1/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 210,927
  • File size: 558 KB

Meet the Author


Hiawatha Bray is a technology reporter for the Boston Globe, where he has been on staff since 1995. He has also written for Wired, Black Enterprise, Fast Company and Christianity Today. Bray lives in Quincy, Massachusetts.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 11, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Here's a fascinating book for you technology people, especially

    Here's a fascinating book for you technology people, especially if you're interested in maps. (That would be me!) Radio beacons, gyroscopes, inertial navigation. It's all in there. Today's technology is fascinating, too. Did you know that your phone has four ways to figure out your location? Wi-Fi (there's a database of where each wireless router is located), cell phone tower triangulation, GPS, and (this one is a surprise to me) GLONASS. That's the Russian equivalent of GPS. 

    I enjoyed the book, it's easy to read, and there's a lot to learn.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2014

    excellent

    best book i have read in years

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2014

    This book is incredible , i couldnt put it down. I will reread

    This book is incredible , i couldnt put it down. I will reread parts to better absorb it. I read everyday but this is the best i have read. Be prepared to be disturbed by its information but what everyone should know. But it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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