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Who Needs GPS? The Story of Etak's 1985 Car Navigation System (fastcompany.com)
391 points by dirwiz 238 days ago | hide | past | web | 83 comments | favorite

I saw Etak back in its early days, and Stan Honey gave me a demo. I still have one of their rate gyro/2D level units, and a compass unit. There's a motor driving a spinning disk, which warps slightly when the unit is turned, and sensors to detect the warp. The level, for sensing which way is down, is a sealed cup of liquid with the liquid height sensed with four capacitor plates outside the cup. The liquid was proprietary, chosen to not slosh under automotive movement. The whole thing is the size of a soda can. The compass is a 2-axis magnetometer, about 2 inches square. It wasn't mounted on a window; it had to be mounted in the horizontal plane, preferably far from metal.

The original Etak units always had the map oriented with north at the top. That was the way sailors used maps. Honey said they'd discovered that about 20% of the population could not cope with a map that wasn't aligned with the direction they were going, which is why they started rotating the map based on vehicle travel. Now everybody does that, and that's why.

> about 20% of the population could not cope with a map that wasn't aligned with the direction they were going

That's me. I have a tough time orienting maps in my head. I still use a mnemonic for compass directions and (occasionally) use my left hand as an L to make sure I'm not screwing it up.

I don't know if there is any research into what the structural differences of brains that suffer from this might be, let alone if there is a name for it.

    > I don't know if there is any research into [needing to
    > reorient maps when driving].
There is! One thing it's highly correlated with is whether you're either a heterosexual woman, or a homosexual man.

There's a really good description of this and other brain attributes correlated with gender or male homosexuality in the BBC show "The Making of Me - John Barrowman". This specific part starts around 6m30s in: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6a063_the-making-of-me-joh...

Here's an article about it in New Scientist, "Gay men read maps like women": https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn7069-gay-men-read-map...

That's not to suggest that you're either a homosexual man or a heterosexual woman based on this datapoint alone. There's of course plenty of people who don't fall into those groups who prefer to read maps that way, just to answer your question about whether there's research about it. Yeah, there's at least some research showing that spatial recognition is indicative of gender & sexual orientation.

I'm an exception. Terrible sense of direction... My sister in law is an exception too. I swear she had a virtual map in her head that was always perfectly oriented.

I actually prefer having a GPS map north up, so that I can train my brain to have a non-relative mental map so that once I orient myself to the compass I can figure out where to go.

As it is, my mental map bears little resemblance to reality.

This is extremely fascinating! It seems like an almost un-pc fact.



If you train yourself to use a static orientation however, you develop a much better "big picture" awareness of the city you drive in, eventually freeing yourself from requiring navigational assistance.

The additional cognitive load is worth it for me.

I can't imagine why you wouldn't want navigational assistance. The only time I drive without my GPS is if I'm going somewhere I go frequently, along a route I normally travel, and it's a short distance. Any place new, and I'm using GPS, and even if I'm going someplace familiar, and I'm familiar with the route, if it's a good distance away I use the GPS anyway to make sure I don't miss a turn and also, very importantly, to reroute me according to traffic conditions. I don't care how good you think your knowledge of the roads in a city are: there is no possible way that you can know that there's a traffic jam or accident along your normal route (unless you're like Paul Atreides). A traffic-aware GPS system will alert you to these things and reroute you if possible.

The thing that's valuable about having that "big picture" awareness of your city is in being able to second-guess the GPS when it gives you bad information, which is rare but it does happen because they're not perfect, or to know that the route it's chosen will only save you 10 seconds but will take you through a residential area with speedbumps instead of a larger road meant for through traffic.

> I can't imagine why you wouldn't want navigational assistance.

Here is why I look up directions in advance in almost all situations:

* GPS is a distraction to maintaining awareness while driving, motorcycling, and bicycling.

* Navigational assistance does not help you when walking, taking public transit or taxis. Using GPS while driving prevents you from learning the layout of the place you are in which transfers to navigational competence for these other modes of transportation.

* You miss fun roads when following GPS navigation.

* GPS navigation is useless when planning long bicycle and motorcycle tours. I pick waypoints and routes between them in advance.

* GPS will route you into sketchy situations (like to phantom bridges) that you could have predicted by looking at a map.

* GPS does not take weather conditions into account when routing. People have gotten into floods (easy to see when looking at rivers and topo on a map in advance), stuck in snow, and have even died in the desert: http://www.sacbee.com/entertainment/living/travel/article257...

I do not know very many competent drivers who rely on GPS navigation. I see plenty of "GPS zombies" obliviously plowing through intersections and ignoring crosswalks every day.

The most use I get out of having a GPS dash unit is on trails and off-roading in my truck or motorcycle, where there is usually no signage for forest roads and trails.

I know how to read a map. I have a good memory. I have a good sense of direction. I did a fair amount of driving before getting a smartphone/GPS. I delivered pizzas for ~3 years, and I'd look up the 1-5 houses on our paper maps at the store showing every street, nearly every house by number, most of the apartments by number, and then memorize the route. I drove cross country a couple times with basic AAA maps and printed Google Maps directions.

I'll defend using GPS on my phone to navigate. It provides a couple benefits that I really enjoy.

1. It knows what is ahead of me before I do. Specifically traffic, where it sometimes provides useful re-routing (although I dislike Waze's re-routing). Also, Waze's user reports can be helpful to warn about debris in the road, etc.

2. It has a consistent interface. When driving in an unfamiliar location, being able to look in one place to see if the next street is the one I need is way better than trying to find & read every street sign.

3. It has a voice interface, which I believe is safer than trying to read my handwritten notes or the printed google maps directions as a driver.

4. I appreciate seeing the current Speed Limit, displayed by Waze.

5. It greatly reduces the cost of missed turns. I hate seeing cars cut across multiple lanes of traffic (or even just one!) at the last minute to make their exit.

The GPS does make it easier to navigate. I think that frees up more of my attention to focus on other aspects of driving: watching the cars around me, looking for pedestrians, cyclists, and other hazards. I believe that actually increases my awareness of what's going on around me.

I agree that not everyone becomes a better driver when using GPS, but I think they could.

Exactly; I agree 100%. GPS has made me a much better driver: I don't miss turns, I'm not distracted trying to find some fallen-down or turned-sideways street sign or trying to read building numbers from the street, and I'm alerted to traffic backups so I have a chance of avoiding them.

Well said. To clarify my point, GPS maps can actually be a learning tool instead of a crutch. But it seems to require static map orientation. When the map is always oriented north, it teaches you about the city as you see your location move within it. When it's constantly shifting the map orientation around, it seems it's too confusing to extract "big picture" knowledge. I don't think most people realize this, since mapping systems often default to the "driver-centric" viewpoint, and if they don't, it's the first thing people change.

Good point. I always have to set whatever GPS I am trying to use to fixed scale (no auto-zoom) map view with "north is up" before things feel right.

GPS also does not work underground. Anyone who has driven through Boston's Big Dig and tried to rely on turn-by-turn directions quickly learns this, accompanied by much cursing.

So here's the thing: If you use GPS, you aren't going to build up your mental map of your city. But if you go without GPS, then you will work towards building up your mental map, and it kind of snowballs.

I really like to: Look up directions on Gmaps, and then jot down the relevant turns I need to know onto a piece of paper. The idea is that Gmaps tells me 20 or so turns, but I really need to only know a highway exit # and a few turns.

The awesome thing is that I've often _forgotten that piece of paper_! But because I went through the act of writing it down, it's stuck in my memory, and I'm usually able to figure it out without checking my phone.

I have a friend who's a great software engineer, and he has great visual/spatial awareness, but he always drives by GPS, and it's kind of embarrassing to sit in the car for two minutes while he gets directions ready to go. -_-

Personally, I don't care that using a map would make me a "better navigator" the same way I don't care that driving stick would make me a "better driver." I don't enjoy driving at all, it's purely a mean to an end, so I'll take any aid that would make the experience more pleasant, and / or reduce my cognitive load.

If I ever start making FU money, and fully self-driving cars are not yet a reality, I would definitely hire chauffeur(s) to drive me around. S/he could use a map, s/he so chooses...

But I mean, it's not about enjoying driving. It's about being an attentive and safe driver. One of the things my Driver's Ed class went over is that: Even if you are the victim of an accident, there's a decent chance that there is something you could have done to avoid it. Things like: Making sure you have 2 of your 4 directions clear, leaving extra space, and watching other drivers.

I think you're wrong that GPS reduce your cognitive load. It reduces it in the short term, but in the long term you are always listening to and referencing an noisey/bright device. In the long run it's a tax, and so it hurts your ability to be an overwhelming safe driver. This is an N=1, but I'm 30, and I'm a bit of a fast driver, and I've never been in an accident.

This is BS. GPS reduces your cognitive load, because it navigates for you. Without it, you have to look at a map (which is extremely dangerous while driving), you have to look for street signs, you have to try to read building numbers from the street. It's extremely distracting trying to find a location in a place you've never been. GPS takes care of all that for you.

People like you always talk about the GPS device being distracting, but how is that better than having no clue where you're going, or trying to read a giant paper map while you're driving and you've missed a turn and there's no place to pull over? You seem to basically be assuming that people should be able to memorize an entire map just by looking at it, and then somehow magically know which road is which even though the signage is frequently horrible. The real world doesn't work the way you think it does.

>Even if you are the victim of an accident, there's a decent chance that there is something you could have done to avoid it.

Sounds like a politically correct way of saying "you screwed up but the other guy had a 51% chance to do something that would have avoided the outcome but you had 49%."

Kind of like how in 100% of "oops I missed my turn" rear ending the second guy pays but the first guy deserves to be slapped for doing something dumb.

FWIW I agree with you on following GPS instructions being far from the optimum.

> Sounds like a politically correct way of saying "you screwed up but the other guy had a 51% chance to do something that would have avoided the outcome but you had 49%."

I didn't take it that way at all. It's very likely civilian is just a more defensive driver who understands a lot of risks can be minimized through awareness and the choices one makes.

So you have never been on the road, and avoided a car crash when someone else screwed up?

I find that if I use GPS/Nav to get somewhere, I have no real awareness of where I am or how to get back. Having spent the large majority of my life without a smartphone (or a mobile phone of any kind) I don't really like that feeling.

If I look up where I'm going in advance, or use written instructions, I can generally backtrack to my origin without too much difficulty.

I've spent the large majority of my life without a smartphone too. I have no trouble knowing where I am or how to get back when I use GPS navigation, or building a "mental map" of the area. I really don't know what's wrong with you people who make these claims.


I'll add my two cents: when driving motorcycle with GPS assistance, I can't concentrate on the driving and get fun from the driving motorcycle. When I'm driving my bike, I prefer to clear my head of all things and concentrate on the road and feelings in my body. This way I get maximum pleasure from riding. When I use GPS, it immediately breaks this state of bliss you can experience while driving bike. Driving with GPS feels like tedious work instead of pleasure.

>I can't imagine why you wouldn't want navigational assistance.

Most navigational aids are terrible at picking good routes to places outside a few very highly trafficked city.

Sure it might pick a good route if you just want shortest distance or least time but if you're willing to add 10sec to avoid a shitshow intersection you're gonna have to do that yourself.

Could it be possible that this may be easier for you than it is for the person you're replying to? Here's my understanding of the conversation that just happened:

A: I have trouble doing Z.

B: Many people have trouble doing Z! Interestingly enough, many X and Y also have trouble doing Z.

C: I'm able to do Z, and I can tell you that the benefits are worth the cost.

I'm simply pointing out there is an often overlooked benefit to using navigation with a static map orientation. For folks who are "bad at directions" this may help them fix that deficit.

It sounds like you might have some form of Topographical Disorientation: https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn25578-mindscapes-the-...

Every once in awhile (maybe a couple times a month) I'll have this sort of experience (though not as dramatic) where everything is a mirror image. I expect a store to be on the opposite side of the street for example, and it's momentarily disorienting. I've learned to not rely on my intuition when navigating.

Interesting, it might be related. I only have it while driving or walking in unfamiliar places, but it does sound very similar.

The article notes that the researcher who diagnosed her lives in the same city I do.

I have a problem with directions / general spatial awareness that sounds similar to what you have. I have a hard time plotting a route to a known location in my head in the city I've lived in for 10+ years, but strangely have no problem getting there once I start driving/biking/walking (depending on how familiar I am with the destination, obviously). I've made it a point to study maps and randomly test whether or not I can point out cardinal directions when I'm out and about and that seems to have helped a bit, but I have a hard time navigating new and unfamiliar places. Truly big cities like Chicago are impossible to navigate. I don't know what I'd do without GPS.

As for orienting the map, it's common practice in sports and army at least. You're _supposed_ to orient the map according to your surroundings and the direction you are facing. It's faster and less prone to errors.

Joey from Friends has to go into the map while in London https://youtu.be/oKCIMX2dsEc?t=40

> The original Etak units always had the map oriented with north at the top. That was the way sailors used maps. Honey said they'd discovered that about 20% of the population could not cope with a map that wasn't aligned with the direction they were going, which is why they started rotating the map based on vehicle travel.

I am the opposite, I cannot deal with a map that does not have north on top and it's constantly moving. Modern mapping software sometimes makes it frustratingly hard to keep north on top.

> about 20% of the population could not cope with a map that wasn't aligned with the direction they were going

I guess, we should all play DnD and Dungeon Crawling every once in a while.

"Etak eventually became a part of TomTom, ensuring that its map data, some of which was first digitized back during the Navigator's development in 1984, would live on to this day."

The story of how TomTom and not Garmin ended up owning the data originally digitized at Etak is interesting. At the time, there were only two digital map companies: Tele Atlas (from which TomTom got their map data) and Navteq (from which Garmin got their map data).

From Wikipedia [1]:

"On July 23, 2007, a €2 billion offer for the company by navigation system maker TomTom was accepted by the Tele Atlas board. This was then trumped by a €2.3 billion offer from United States-based rival Garmin on October 31, 2007 initiating a bidding war for Tele Atlas. TomTom responded by upping their bid to €2.9 billion, an offer which was again approved by the board of Tele Atlas. Garmin had been expected to counterbid once again: with Tele Atlas' main global rival Navteq subject to a takeover bid from Nokia, the company had stated that it did not wish both companies to fall into the hands of rivals. However, after striking a content agreement with Navteq through the year 2015, Garmin withdrew its takeover offer, clearing the way for TomTom. On December 4, 2007, TomTom shareholders approved the takeover. The European Commissioner for Competition cleared the takeover in May 2008, and it closed in June."

TomTom (where I worked at the time) was shocked and dismayed that Garmin outbid them by €300 million on Tele Atlas, because while it made a lot of sense for TomTom to buy their own map data supplier, it would have been prohibitively complex and expensive for Garmin, who used Navteq data, to switch map data sources and retool their entire map data digestion, distribution and error correction pipelines.

TomTom was so determined to buy Tele Atlas and keep it out of Garmin's hands, that they raised their bid by €900 million.

In the meantime, Garmin renegotiated their deal with Navteq, so they didn't have to pay as much for the data, and didn't have to switch map suppliers.

The stunt that Garmin pulled of was, in my opinion, an ingenious head-fake that cost TomTom an enormous amount of money, almost a billion euros, and at the same time saved Garmin a whole lot of money by enabling them to renegotiate a better deal with Navteq, who was faced with losing their major customer if they didn't lower their prices.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tele_Atlas

The other really remarkable thing about that time for me (I was working for a TomTom competitor) was that Nokia also paid a whopping US$8.1 billion (€5.7 billion) for NavTeq. This was right before Google ate both companies' lunch by switching to doing their own mapping for Google Maps using the Street View cars. The iPhone was announced about 6 months later.

That sounds like it would be an amazing plot point for a show like Billions. Garmin basically did the impossible: force a supplier of a scarce product to renegotiate their position. Amazing story, thanks for posting.

FYI, here is a part which is still relevant today:

"the system continuously ironed out accumulated errors over time by comparing actual distances driven and turns made with road shapes on the map. Honey calls the technique "augmented dead reckoning."

That means driving through a long stretch of straight highway could begin to trip up Etak's system, since there were no turns and no distinct roads for the computer to algorithmically seize upon. If that happened, the driver could manually reposition the car cursor onto a location on the map using controls on the display."

Those things work, but they are barely "good enough". The biggest problem is, it is easy to lose your position if you are in the city -- maybe you had a few sharp turns, went around the parking cars a couple of times. And once this happens, the system is unlikely to correct itself, your only way will be to manually set position, which most people will not do.

No, Etak could recover position after you made a few turns, unless you were in a city with a very regular grid. The recent path would be matched against the map to find the best match. When Honey demoed the system to me, he drove around a vacant lot in Menlo Park to force it to lose position, and then it recovered after a few turns.

I am sure it could recover most of the time, in some places. I am not so sure it would work well in all places -- regular grid is pretty common for example in New York City.

You could actually see it in use if you used older GPS units -- back in SA time, the GPS was low precision (~100 meters), but still provided mostly accurate heading/velocitry information. Thus, many GPS navigators required mapmatching (see other thread for details). It would always fail on me in the most annoying moments, and would take quite a while to recover.

Airliners used the same basic system for a long time... and it was, in fact, an airline incident that lead the US gov't to declassify GPS so trans-oceanic flights could be tracked better.

To this day though, when I pilot starts up an airliner, they fire up that old system as a backup, its programed down to the gates at the airports, so they set their departure gate and as soon as they start moving, it tracks, through gyros, the whole flight. There can be a lot of drift in the system though, which is what lead to KAL007 being shot down by the soviets, killing almost 300 and prompting Reagan to declassify GPS to prevent that same kind of thing from happening again...

INS mode wasn't even enabled on KAL007, it flew on HEADING mode.

"According to the ICAO, the autopilot was not operating in the INS mode either because the crew did not switch the autopilot to the INS mode (shortly after Cairn Mountain), or they did select the INS mode, but the computer did not transition from INERTIAL NAVIGATION ARMED to INS mode because the aircraft had already deviated off track by more than the 7.5 nautical miles (13.9 km) tolerance permitted by the inertial navigation computer. Whatever the reason, the autopilot remained in the HEADING mode, and the problem was not detected by the crew."


A surprising amount of stuff still relies on - or quite recently relied on what they call "inertial navigation systems" (INS for short).


I work in aviation and it's still used as a fallback and to compare radio-based equipment with in some cases. Full GPS transitions in aviation are still just getting off the ground in most places.

Another system from back in the days of pre-very accurate gps: The advanced snowplow program http://www.path.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/documents/i... and from archive.org: http://web.archive.org/web/20070112182654/http://www.path.be...

Picture driving a snow plow in the California sierras in whiteout conditions. On one side of you is a steep cliff with no guard rails (not that guard rails would - the snow is higher than the rails).

So, they embedded magnets in the road that had data in them (the way they were organized):

> Two primary technologies are being used in the ASP: detecting the plow's position relative to the center of the lane, to assist the operator in steering; and detecting obstacles, for collision warning. PATH's magnetic marker guidance system provides guidance information. This system was developed for automated vehicle guidance and control applications. A single magnetometer array comprised of seven magnetic sensors was installed at the front of the snowplow. Signal processing of the magnetometers provides lateral position measurement relative to the center of the lane, longitudinal position relative to mileposts, and yaw angle estimate. Binary coding of the magnetic markers when installed (north pole up vs. south pole up) also provides information about roadway characteristics, e.g. the direction and radius of the curves. The obstacle detection system uses a commercially available Eaton-Vorad radar, incorporating a digital interface developed by AHMCT in conjunction with Eaton Vorad.

There was also Honda's Gyrocator a few years earlier:


I'd never seen that before. Neat. Honda has always impressed me as an engineering company.

I remember Alpine electronics had something very similar. I wonder if it was a joint effort?

It was.

Interesting to read about alternative, non-centralized, forms of navigation. I wish modern cars which already have all the necessary sensors would use this method as a fallback, since GPS reception is not always available.

Vehicle speed and steering position are available through OBDII. And inexpensive Bluetooth OBDII interfaces are available. But I don't think that navigation app developers have done anything to take advantage of that data for dead reckoning input.


Telenav implemented ODBII in their OpenStreetCam software:


I believe Apple requires CarPlay radios to provide wheel speed and compass readings (along with GPS) to the iPhone, and it gets used by CoreLocation to report location to apps.

Every single mapping app has to implement some kind of mapmatching, since you can't rely on the GPS sensors to always be accurate: the GPS position is frequently wrong when you're moving between cell towers , and can be lost for several seconds in cities. Nokia/HERE's implementation (which I was told was very similar to tomtom/garmin's implementation) was written more than a decade ago, and IIRC, every time it encounters a fork in your path, it projects your position on every alternate for a few seconds and chooses the one that best matches the current gps+compass+accelerometer data as your "current" route. The output of this algorithm (which btw is hideously incomprehensible -- I'm talking old c++ with almost no comments) is what is used for map viewing/routing/guidance... the pure gps signal is never used as-is.

> the GPS position is frequently wrong when you're moving between cell towers , and can be lost for several seconds in cities.

You seem to be thinking of cell tower triangulation, not GPS. I do agree that GPS also does not do particularly well in areas with large buildings: it needs a clear view of the sky which can be hard to come by when there's skyscrapers everywhere.

Actually, nowadays GPS rarely is used by itself.

Instead, you use A-GPS, which is GPS with additionally communication with a server for accuracy.

>which btw is hideously incomprehensible -- I'm talking old c++ with almost no comments

What does "old" have to do with it? Modern code is all like that too. Every time I complain about it, including just a day or two right here on HN, I get a bunch of responses saying "I don't need comments, my code is self-documenting". In my experience, most programmers do not use comments much at all, and it's entirely incomprehensible to anyone new to the project.

I think some smartphone navigation apps do temporary dead reckoning, using the accelerometers that are built into the phone.

Dead reckoning using just acceleration data loses accuracy quickly. Using turns to reset position is a really good idea. I think I've seen my iPhone do a similar "recovery" procedure when it gets a little off track.

I have had my Android phone continues to plot my travel through a tunnel when it couldn't receive GPS signal. It's usually off by a small margin when I reach the end of the tunnel but everything syncs once the signal is acquired again.

Is your car connected to your Android in some way?

Just providing power.

I've used navigation apps that do this on iPhone, but the navigation portion of the app didn't realize I was in the tunnel, so it kept telling me to make turns on surface roads...

Some of TomTom's high-end devices like the TomTom GO 920 have built-in accelerometers and gyros, and use "Enhanced Positioning Technology" to perform augmented dead reckoning when GPS signals are not available, like in tunnels and highly built-up areas.


Best navigation with Enhanced Positioning Technology

TomTom’s new Enhanced Positioning Technology uses movement and gravity sensors to calculate drivers’ positions when GPS signals are unavailable.

TomTom GO 920 T users will have a much more continuous navigation experience as the Enhanced Positioning Technology ensures the device continues to navigate to its destination, even in circumstances where there may not be a direct line-of-sight connection to a satellite. For example, when driving in a city with tall buildings, underpasses or bridges.


As you drive along you will often encounter places where the Satellite signal is blocked such as tunnels and underground parking lots. TomTom has introduced a system called EPT (Enhanced Position Technology) to keep track of your position using accelerometers. This is not as accurate as GPS but will help guide you in places like Boston where the Big Dig has created a network of underground roads.


2008: Enhanced Positioning

TomTom released the GO x30 range in April 2008 based on NavCore 8. New features included IQ Routes, which estimated journey times based on average recorded speeds, rather than speed limits, and Advanced Lane Guidance, an on-screen representation of the correct lane to take. The 930, like the x20, had Enhanced Positioning Technology. GSM HD Traffic receivers, plugging into the car's cigarette lighter, added HD Traffic to the GO range.

Refreshed ONE and XL models were released in May 2008, still based on NavCore 7, with an improved speaker.

NavCore 8 updates for NavCore 7 devices, including the ONE v3 and v4, were released in June 2008, giving x20 users (only) IQ Routes and Advanced Lane Guidance, with the purchase of new maps.

It would also be helpful in case of a hacking event: if the car's local sensors deviate from the gps data significantly, that should throw up a red flag to the car and driver.

> if the car's local sensors deviate from the gps data significantly, that should throw up a red flag to the car and driver.

This happens too often for benign reasons (and GPS hacking too rare) for it to be useful. The GPS system in my Ford Focus jumps around wildly if I start the car in an enclosed space before it gets a good lock, and it can be thrown-off under bridges and around tall buildings as it doesn't have A-GPS (does any car have A-GPS?). The worst is when a poor signal is combined with road-snapping - I've had a lot of trouble with off-ramps on partially submerged urban highways, the I-5 in downtown Seattle, for example.

Stan Honey is a legend in sailing as well as in technology.

He's won the Jules Verne trophy as navigator, fastest round the world (48 days). He's won the Volvo. PacCup with Nolan Bushnell. Rolex Yachtsman of the year (his wife Sally has won twice). He did the NFL line effects, same for NASCAR and NHL. He did the Americas Cup effects. He did Sailmail. Multiple patents.

And he's an incredibly nice guy. Dennis Connor is the best American yachtsman, but Honey ain't far behind.

So he's responsible for those annoying digital ads on the glass during NHL broadcasts? Yuck.

> That "heading-up" technique reminded Honey of ancient Polynesian navigation concepts that he had read about during his studies of navigation in previous years. The ancient mariners of that region navigated the seas by relying on a series of environmental cues, such as the positions of islands around them, combined with a mental perception of themselves in the center of the conceptual navigational space in their heads. With that in mind, Honey decided to call his new company Etak, which is a Polynesian term for moving navigational reference points.

Ah yes, the Polynesian stick charts:


A little side note Stan Honey is also the person who spearheaded the virtual 'yellow line' visible on every NFL game.

This is stated in the article.

Yes, but not until the very end(which is why I called it a side note). I'm assuming this article follows the journalistic inverted pyramid paradigm.

Surprised no one has mentioned its similarity to a Pip Boy:


And a Fallout Pip Boy for reference: https://staticdelivery.nexusmods.com/mods/120/images/16096-1...

The Fallout similarities struck me too - in that universe technology diverged well before the micro-processor stage, with some of our current technology reimagined with a 1950s spin. This gadget fits the bill superbly!

I'm not surprised because someone just did

I wouldn't be surprised if that was the inspiration for the Pip Boy. Fallout is absolutely loaded with obscure references in a Mad Max inspired world.

it also looks like a "multi function display" in the cockpit of an F-15, for controlling radar, weapons, etc..

Regarding dead reckoning - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/10833087/MoD-crea... seems very interesting.

If anyone has any up to date information or papers on this approach, I'd be very interested.

(It seems to be also known as a quantum compass)

Bushnell is one of my all-time heroes. He struck the motherlode with Atari, and then parlayed that success into a bunch of different ventures that were way ahead of their time, most of which failed spectacularly, none of which failed spectacularly enough to dissuade him from pressing on to the next thing.

I truly believe he is as much a visionary as Steve Jobs ever was, the difference being that Jobs had the patience to wait for technology to catch up to his vision, whereas Bushnell did his level best to invent it.

The way it kept the positioning looks really complicated, why not reuse one of the old LORAN technologies? By that time it should have been already demilitarized and transmitters were probably a lot less expensive to build.

I would love to see a video of this thing in action. Never heard about this system before.

This seems a great story of technical ingenuity without top notch business execution. Would like to see an analysis on how the business should or could have been developed.

Pretty amazing that they did all this before the current generation of MEMS sensors.

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