How Charlie Trimble changed the GPS Industry

Trimble was set up in garage.  Tech business started in a Garage?  This story sounds very familiar (Apple).

Watch the story of Charlie Trimble via “Geospatial World” website.  Click on the image or the link below to access the video.

Charlie Trimble image history of Trimble

How Charlie Trimble Changed the GPS Industry

A personal story about my first GPS unit:

I graduated from UW-Oshkosh with a Geography degree in Spring of 1996.  GPS was maybe talked about for a total of 2 days in my 2 years of Geography and GIS courses.

My first job in the GIS world was December of 1996.




  • I was trained on a Trimble ProXR back GPS unit to collect utility assets.
  • I was given what seemed like a DOZEN floppy disks (what is a floopy disk?) to install GPS Pathfinder Office on a IBM laptop running Windows 95.
  • I learned how to create a Data Dictionary for Features and Attributes inside of GPS Pathfinder Office.
  • The data collector was a TDC1 with a very basic key pad and small screen.  It was the size of a Brick.
  • Not to mention the 2 large Camcorder Batteries in the backpack to run the system.  I always carried a spare set just in case.
  • When I started to use the GPS Unit on longer days in the summer I rigged up a way to charge the batteries while driving as needed.
  • Or if I needed to drive roads or trails with a vehicle I would attach the antenna to a mag mount onto the roof.  Then I had direct power running to the ProXR receiver via a power inverter.

Reminder: The internet was not very mature at this time.  No High Speed internet or WiFi.  Dial up – oh boy was that fun for downloading base station data.

  • Base Station Data for Differential Correction was not as easily accessible in the late 1990’s as it is today.
  • No VRS DOT or Private VRS Real-time Correction Networks in Wisconsin at this time.
  • Mainly, I relied on Real-time Radio corrections from Coast Guard Beacons, or a few Public and Private base stations that I could get the files in person or downloaded from the internet.  Who remembers the browser “Netscape”?
  • After data collection, Data transfer the data to GPS Pathfinder Office and Differential Correct any data that still needed it.
  • Export was to SHP File to use in Esri’s ArcView 3.0 or DXF file to AutoCAD 13.

**Long Story short.  Thank you Charlie Trimble for my 21 year GPS/GNSS learning experience so far and many more to come.

What was your first GPS unit?  Leave a comment below to share.