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    Re: Digital Sextant
    From: Trevor Kenchington
    Date: 2002 Apr 2, 16:42 -0400

    Dave Weilacher, echoing others, wrote:
    > I would like an electronic sextant that ... [much snipped]
    Accepting that anyone can want whatever they want, I just don't understand
    what is motivating you guys.
    If you want to know where you are at any moment, to excruciating precision
    and with no human effort required, get a GPS unit. Better still, hard-wire
    it to an electronic charting system, radar and autopilot and you can be
    saved almost all need of thinking or acting. Those who don't trust their GPS
    receivers can, at a price of a few hundred dollars, mount twin back-up units
    and have the same degree of security as is deemed sufficient for the Space
    Shuttle -- though even a single GPS is a lot more reliable in my part of the
    world than the clear skies without which any kind of sextant is useless.
    (Those who don't trust the GPS system itself, as distinct from tehir
    receivers, would be well advised to take all their money and build a
    bomb-proof shelter to live in. If the whole system shuts down, not knowing
    where you are would be the least of your problems!)
    So far as I can see, the point of resorting to a sextant and celestial
    sights rather than modern technology is to get the satisfaction of
    exercising a range of complex skills -- skills that in their day were
    essential to mankind and which remain distinctive abilities of an elite
    group who have worked at mastering them. If you take the skills away and
    have some instrument that you just point at a couple of celestial bodies,
    click a button and read out your position, why not go the whole way and just
    click the button on your GPS instead?
    Trevor Kenchington

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