Timing transforms our world

Time is the wisest counselor of all.  – Pericles

Timing technology has played a pivotal role in the birth of each new technology era, moving us forward in ways we didn’t think possible. Over the last three centuries, timing has saved lives, automated industrial machines, and enabled the internet age.

Timing has helped build nations

Today we take navigation for granted. However, in the 18th century, the number one challenge for sailors was accurate navigation by determining the longitude. Without this knowledge, thousands had lost their lives at sea along with countless fortunes. And the problem was only getting worse with the expansion of global trade. While luminaries like Newton proposed a celestial solution, John Harrison, a carpenter, built an instrument that told precise time at sea, even in the harsh nautical environment of constant motion, extreme temperatures, and humidity. Harrison invented the first marine chronometer, the essential instrument to calculate longitude after losing sight of land.

The result – the marine chronometer helped establish British naval dominance for nearly two centuries. Learn more about John Harrison and his perfect timekeeper in the book, Longitude by Dava Sobel.

Enabling over the air communications

At the start of WW II, a radio frequency based long range navigation system (LORAN) replaced mechanical chronometers and provided coverage over 70% of the earth’s surface. Its success was dependent on an oscillator at the heart of the system. It provided navigation services until the early 1990s, when replaced by GPS.

In the 1950s, ultra-high frequency (UHF) radios were not affordable for the average consumer, so in 1958 the CB service was created on 27 MHz, becoming known as Citizens Band.  By leveraging timing frequencies, 23 channels were available. During the 1960s, the service gained popularity among small businesses, truck drivers, and radio hobbyists.

Timing also played a crucial role in the success of amateur radio and, subsequently, television. The CRT needed a very accurate and clean timing signal to ensure excellent image quality, one that was not jittery. High-quality oscillators met the requirements and helped enable the TV age.

old tv and cb radio

The era of global navigation systems

The Global Positioning System (GPS) has been foundational to countless innovations that power our modern, everyday life. In the 1990s, GPS replaced LORAN as the primary navigation system worldwide and was designated for commercial use. Each of the GPS satellites contains a very accurate clock synchronized to each other and those on Earth. Each GPS receiver uses the data from satellites to calculate time and position to determine navigation. Without accurate clocks in the satellite and the receiver, positioning and navigation would not be possible.

GPS continues to have a major impact on our lives, especially with the advent of new innovations. For example, modern smartphones integrate GPS data with various apps to make them more user-friendly, thus increasing the value of accurate positioning and precision timing.

Timing inspires what's next

As in the past, timing will continue to play a vital role in the innovations of tomorrow. Precise timing solutions will enable new industries such as autonomous transportation. Highly reliable and resilient timing are enabling 5G communications with ubiquitous connectivity and realizing the full potential of the Internet of Things. What lies beyond will only be limited by our imagination. Putting colonies on other planets, ending world hunger, and saving our world from climate change are all possible, and we believe that timing has a role to play in all of them.

So, what world-transforming innovation are you building?

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