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Decca Navigator

1947 to 2000

In an age when electronic communication is taken for granted, it is difficult to recall what life was like in the days before. Until the advent of Decca Navigator, mariners and aviators had to combine the sextant, compass and chronometer with a lot of skill and judgement to find their latitude and longitude. Usually calculated by mariners just once a day, the accuracy of such readings could not be guaranteed and in poor weather could be unobtainable.

It took a war and the potential loss of thousands of lives to concentrate the minds of a few people who embarked upon a search for a new and dependable method of accurate navigation. Different methods were tried but ultimately it was the system subsequently known as Decca that provided the answer.

For the first time, anyone equipped with a box of electronics could interpret radio signals and calculate their position with an accuracy that was previously inconceivable. Suddenly navigation was no longer a matter of luck and guesswork, lives were being saved and livelihoods enriched. The world had got its first taste of electronic navigation and from then on there was no looking back.

For thirty five years The Decca Navigator system broadcast its signals across much of the world until satellite positioning nudged it onto obsolescence. While GPS is an important advance, its arrival does not compare with the impact that Decca already had on navigation. The first cumbersome box of dials represents a landmark in maritime evolution as it changed forever the way people went to sea. It is for this reason that we are dedicating the folllowing pages to glance at the history of Decca Navigator and to record the milestones in the evolution of a technology that brought navigation into the modern world.

Stephen Clark
Director, Racal Tracs Ltd
Taken from the 2000 commemorative brochure this nicely sums up the intention of this website