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Last gasp for loran? What’s loran?

January 13, 2010

Loran (an acronym for LOng RAnge Navigation) is a radionavigation system that was largely invented in WWII and has been used by mariners and pilots ever since. Compared to GPS (an acronym for Global Positioning System or Goofy People Squealing), loran costs almost nothing. [GPS = Prime Rib; loran = Ramen Noodles.] Not only that, but in the 90s the U.S. Government spent millions expanding loran coverage so it included the entire U.S. airspace.

But, you say, with GPS, who needs loran. Good point. You generally don’t. But if some bad person wants to jam GPS, it’s not hard to do. And if GPS goes out, it means more than your car becoming more directionally clueless than the average husband. GPS is also used as a time standard for synchronizing cell phone networks, telephone networks and other types of long distance data transfer — can you say Internet? Since loran also uses atomic clocks for precise timing of its signals, loran can be used as a back-up timing standard should GPS go bye bye.

So loran makes sense as a low budget (well, low budget in the U.S. government sense of low budget, it only costs $36 million to operate loran vs. more than $1 billion for GPS) backup to GPS should GPS get jammed worse than the CEO of Smuckers trying to dunk on LeBron. There’s even a new form of loran called “eloran” that greatly expands loran’s capabilities and makes it an even better compadre to GPS.

So far, some folks aren’t so happy about the loran shutdown. But it seems to be going forward. Think about it, loran will disappear before you ever knew what it was. Lorry, we hardly knew ya….

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