The Most Influential Gear of All Time: Handheld GPS Magellan

1989

An early Magellan GPS     Photo: Courtesy of Magellan

Almost immediately after GPS technology was developed by the United States Military, Ed Tuck, a pilot at time, became interesting in adopting it for his own use. Tuck had a friend who lived on the West Coast, but there were no navigation systems in the area, making it hard for Tuck to fly in to visit. During the years that Tuck experimented with GPS he co-founded Magellan, which would go on to become one of the most recognized brands associated with the technology.

Tuck’s first handheld GPS units had to be tested in the middle of the night as there were few satellites in orbit and the device needed access to three to four at a time to get a decent reading. Product managers would skulk around Los Angeles parks, where they were routinely questioned by police, with their handheld units to try and find satellites.

The first consumer-ready product was targeted to mariners, who, once they were 20 miles from shore, had only celestial navigation to get them home. In 1992, in conjunction with Jim Whittaker from REI, Magellan began targeting GPS to people who worked and played outdoors. Today, Magellan units read off 28 or more satellites orbiting the earth.

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