Some GPS devices could stop working next month

Shawn Knight

Posts: 12,692   +124
Staff member

As Tom’s Guide highlights, older GPS devices used a week counter to help keep track of time and ultimately, calculate your location. For most devices, the 10-bit “timer” started on January 6, 1980. After 1,024 weeks or roughly 19.7 years, the timer resets.

That happened once before, on August 21, 1999, but it was largely a non-issue as GPS wasn’t nearly as prevalent as it is today.

On April 6, the second GPS reset will occur. Or at least, that’s when it should occur. The problem is that some device manufacturers hard-coded a different reset date to “fix” the issue. In reality, all this did was push the date back a bit further. Worse yet, because it is no longer a predictable date, most will have no way of knowing when their GPS device will encounter the week reset.

Fortunately, this isn’t our first time at bat. GPS device makers have known about the issue for years and many have already issued updates to cope with it. What’s more, most devices manufactured within the past decade now use a 13-bit week counter that only needs to be reset every 157 years.

How big of an issue are we looking at come April 6? That depends on who you ask although the general consensus is that you probably won’t notice anything abnormal. Still, some are a bit more reserved.

Trend Micro vice president Bill Malik told Tom’s Guide that he won’t be flying that day.

“Ports load and unload containers automatically, using GPS to guide the cranes,” Malik said. “Public-safety systems incorporate GPS systems, as do traffic-monitoring systems for bridges. Twenty years ago these links were primitive. Now they are embedded. So any impact now will be substantially greater.”

Those who rely on an older GPS will want to make sure their software is up to date. If you are unsure, check with the manufacturer of your device.

Lead image courtesy SAHACHATZ via Shutterstock

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gamerk2

Posts: 441   +329
You know what's amazing? That these GPS devices are so stingy on memory that they can't afford to throw in one or two extra bits to make this a complete non-issue.
 

rrwards

Posts: 156   +250
You know what's amazing? That these GPS devices are so stingy on memory that they can't afford to throw in one or two extra bits to make this a complete non-issue.
Memory prices were VASTLY different 20 years ago, that's hardly a fair complaint to make.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 7,597   +6,112
I was just pissed when they revealed "lifetime warrenty" for these devices meant until THEY determined when the lifetime ended. That was the main reason I refused to buy from the came company and will avoid doing business with them again. These guys are so penny wise and pound foolish, they deserve what they get!
 
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Evernessince

Posts: 5,461   +6,133
You know what's amazing? That these GPS devices are so stingy on memory that they can't afford to throw in one or two extra bits to make this a complete non-issue.
Memory prices were VASTLY different 20 years ago, that's hardly a fair complaint to make.
The price is mostly irrelevant given that even the first personal computers had 4KB of ram. 2 bits is nothing even back then and it was definitely cheaper when a majority of these GPS units were made.
 
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PEnnn

Posts: 482   +419
".......now use a 13-bit week counter that only needs to be reset every 157 years."

Great, now 157 year later those people would think we were real *****s despite our knowledge and computing power!!
 

plplplpl

Posts: 12   +6
"For most devices, the 10-bit “timer” started on January 6, 1980."

We thought the '80s would last forever.
 

Capaill

Posts: 1,200   +738
Perhaps they figured that in 19 years we'd have moved on to something more advanced to guide our flying cars around the skies.