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

4.3 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0465032853
ISBN-10: 0465032850
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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

About 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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (April 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465032850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465032853
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #565,528 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
I was expecting an apocalyptic view of the loss of privacy through the use of locating services (with or without our knowledge). Instead I read a very objective and interesting book about history, politics, science, business and map-making. And yes, author Hiawatha Bray does discuss our loss of privacy but in an honest not alarmist way. The book is well-written and is accessible to the general public; no science knowledge is required. Bray doesn’t get bogged down in techno-babble and explains everything well. I recommend this book for anyone interested in geography or history of science or anyone who casually keeps location services on their phone or tablet on all the time.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Writing an engaging an interesting book on a technical subject poses a significant challenge. Dive too deeply into the technical minutiae and you risk boring non-technical readers. Skim too superficially and you fail to do the subject justice. In his new book, You Are Here: From the Compass to GPS, the History and Future of How We Find Ourselves, author Hiawatha Bray navigates a middle course. The result is a book that will enlighten the most technical reader while entertaining and informing anyone seeking to learn more about the technology by which we find ourselves and our way.

Bray's ambitious book presents the history of navigation and location technology from ancient days to modern times. His first chapter traces navigation and cartography from Polynesian shell maps through the discovery of the compass, and the astronomical and horological discoveries that enabled accurate navigation by 1800. His second chapter discusses radio based navigation. Since I've written papers on the history of RF-based navigation, I was particularly interested in this chapter. Bray hit all the essential points and even added details new to me, such as the performance and behavior of John Stone Stone's early direction-finding antenna array, and how the need for reliable aerial navigation to support the growing demand for air mail spurred RF-navigation technology.

Chapter Three describes the development of gyroscopic and inertial navigation. In his fourth and fifth chapters, Bray presents the origins of the Global Positioning System (GPS). Bray notes a remarkably prescient 1869 suggestion from Edward Everett Hale for a satellite based navigation system.

Chapter Six presents the story of how Skyhook Wireless pioneered WiFi based navigation.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book has a lot of very good information in it, but the chapters have few or no breaks in the text. A book like this, being rather dense, should have section breaks to break up the wall of text and to provide a convenient place to stop reading, put the bookmark in, and turn out the light.

In a book dedicated to the human search for navigation, there are almost no visual clues in the text for where you stopped reading and where to begin again. This makes the book a struggle to read, when the exact opposite should be the case.
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Format: Hardcover
You are Here by Hiawatha Gray ... 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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Format: Hardcover
This is a nice and well written book about the history and present (up to 2013 ) state of localisation science. A chapter is dedicated to each theme : It begins with the longitude and latitude problems, radio positioning, inertial positioning, use of satellites, and the progresses on mapping. Each chapter clearly exposes the difficulties facing people at a given period of history and various developments which led to their solutions. The last(long) chapter is devoted to the present threat to privacy due to the progresses in geolocalisation.

The ordering of the chapters transform the books into a nice, easy read.
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Format: Hardcover
I found this to be a well-written, detailed look at communication/location technology. Not a quick read at all, because this gem contains lots of very interesting history and technology. The author has clearly researched a LOT about this subject--especially the long history of trying to get accurate positional information based on satellites.

And yes, it's true! According to the author, Stephen Poizner "perfected phone-based GPS technology."

► THINGS I LIKED THE MOST ◄
♦ The "Found in Space" chapter, with history of location technology, such as Ivan Getting of WWII fame.
♦ History of satellite launches, such as the TIMATION series of the 1960's.
♦ Discussion on how navigation satellites have to incorporate relativistic equation adjustments.
♦ Explanation of the deliberate error-introducing scheme, called "Selective Availability." I had heard of this, but didn't really know much about it. I had no idea it was canceled by the Clinton administration in 1996.

► QUALITY OF EDITING ◄
Appears to be perfect. Someone has spent a lot of time getting this right!

► FORMAT & EASE OF READING ◄
Well laid-out book. Very professional, with detailed end Notes and Index.

► THINGS I WISHED WERE DIFFERENT◄
Would have liked to see a discussion of "Geocaching." Didn't see anything on it. A word search did not turn up even one hit on "geocache."

√ All in all, a well-written and informative book. Recommend!

♫ A Review by Chris Lawson

[Note: I do not know the author of this book, and no one requested I write this review.]
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