GPS: don’t leave home without it

Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are the dream of many travellers, especially if you have a tendency to lose your way. For those who haven’t explored the Arctic recently, GPS systems allow you to instantly determine your geographic position (in latitude and longitude) by pressing a button on a portable, battery operated unit no larger than a cell phone. The latest units, offered by Casio, are actually part of a wrist watch.

GPS tells you exactly where you are by receiving signals from satellites orbiting the earth. Recreational boaters and pilots, hikers, campers, hunters, and fishermen are among the travelers who rely on GPS receivers, along with military and business users. It’s a fantastic invention, especially if you try and imagine where we’d all be today if Columbus had had a GPS?

There is a looming problem for GPS users, and it’s coming up tomorrow. An event called the “end of the week rollover” hits tomorrow, and older consumer-model GPS receivers could process satellite data incorrectly after August 21,1999.

The faulty receivers may be unable to locate the satellites, may take more time than usual to locate the satellites or may appear to be working but displaynaccurate positions, times or dates. If lives or personal safety are at stake with your GPS, it’s time to check with your receiver manufacturer for rollover and Y2K compliance. The GPS rollover occurs every 1,024 weeks — about once every 20 years. The GPS system calculates time by counting the number of weeks since Jan. 6, 1980 — up to a maximum of 1,023 weeks. At midnight between August 21-22, 1999, the GPS week “counter” will roll back to zero weeks. The United States Department of Defense, which operates the system, says this will not create problems for the GPS satellites or their ground control centre, but it could present a problem for consumers with older GPS receivers and related applications.

If you use a GPS receiver, get more information at the website listed below. In the meantime, GPS users can ask themselves: where am I? And really mean it.