Processor for the ETAK Navigator


The ETAK Navigator was the first automobile computerized navigation system. The name, Etak, was taken from a Polynesian word for "navigation." Traditionally Polynesian canoeists had navigated by considering the apparent movement of islands against the apparent fixed position of their canoes, an approach that inspired the Stanley K. Honey, who invented the electronic ETAK system.

Unlike later computer systems, the ETAK did not coordinate the car's position with external reference signals. Instead, it used dead reckoning, or tracking the location of the vehicle by calculating its movement from its starting point. Sensors in the car measured movement by scanning strips of magnetic tape mounted inside each of the non-driven wheels, counted wheel revolutions, and used them to calculate measurements of distance.

The cathode-ray tube display showed the car as a fixed point, and moved reference maps behind it. Drivers could enter their planned destination and observe their progress towards it. The maps could be displayed at different levels of resolution, allowing the current location and desination always to be on the map. The system also constantly updated the approximate straight line distance between current position and destination.

Tracking corrections were made by coordinating car movement with details of the stored map. For example, if the car turned at an intersection or followed an "S" curve, the display algorithm automatically corrected its postion relative to the stored map, thus eliminating the problem of accumulated error. The device generally had an error of less than 50 feet. Maps for different areas were stored on cassette tapes, which needed to be loaded into the device when going to a new location.

The ETAK Navigator was invented in 1983 and first sold in California in 1984. Units were installed in over 2,000 vehicles in 1984-1985.

Date Made: 19841985

Maker: ETAK, Inc

Location: Currently not on view

See more items in: Medicine and Science: Computers


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Tele Atlas North America, Inc.

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2005.0244.01Catalog Number: 2005.0244.01Accession Number: 2005.0244

Object Name: Navigational Instrument

Measurements: overall: 3 3/4 in x 7 in x 12 1/2 in; 9.525 cm x 17.78 cm x 31.75 cm


Record Id: nmah_1297161

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