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Inhabiting the Grid: Radionavigation and Electronic Coordinates, 1920–1965

Inhabiting the Grid: Radionavigation and Electronic Coordinates, 1920–1965

Chapter:
(p.205) Chapter Five Inhabiting the Grid: Radionavigation and Electronic Coordinates, 1920–1965
Source:
After the Map
Author(s):
William Rankin
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226339535.003.0005

Radionavigation systems come in many different varieties, and different systems can construct very different geographies. The history of radionavigation before GPS is largely a story of technological proliferation, with dozens of solutions developed around the world for a wide variety of needs and user groups. This chapter begins by comparing the earliest such systems of the late 1920s – the Radio Range in the US and Radio Direction Finding (D/F) in Europe – as two ways of understanding the relationship between radio and bounded national space. The creation of many more systems in World War II – especially the invention of hyper-precise blind bombing systems and various “hyperbolic navigation” systems that had much in common with cartographic grids – led to a long and heated battle over radio standards at the International Civil Aviation Organization in the 1950s and 1960s. This chapter makes it clear that these debates over “track guides” and “area coverage,” and especially the development of “integrated navigation” that combined signals from multiple systems, were not leading inevitably to GPS. By the late 1960s, the field of electronic navigation was quite sustainably heterogeneous, and transnational space was becoming increasingly unified without any top-down guiding hand.

Keywords:   radionavigation, Radio Range, Radio Direction Finding, blind bombing, hyperbolic navigation, World War II, International Civil Aviation Organization, integrated navigation, track guides, area coverage

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