Since 1955, the North American Aerospace Defense Command has tracked Santa Claus like a Soviet missile. Back in the day, it was CONAD – the Continental Air Defense Command. When Canada joined the defense grid in 1958, offering access to Santa’s Arctic airspace, it became NORAD. To this day, NORAD staff, family and friends volunteer to track this bogey across the Yuletide sky.
These days, NORAD and Google work together to track Santa. Now that the private sector is so good at tracking things, Google can let citizens track Santa Claus themselves. For the 2011 NORAD Santa exercise, anyone with a smartphone can search ‘Santa’ on Google Maps for mobile and get a Santa target lock in the palm of their hand.
The tradition started by accident. A 1955 Sears Roebuck holiday catalog misprinted the phone number for kids in Colorado Springs to call Santa Claus. Instead of Santa, they called the CONAD Commander-in-Chief’s operations hotline. So, Colonel Harry Shoup, CONAD’s Director of Ops at the time, had his staff check the radar for Santa’s position. Isn’t that cute?
Now NORAD has a nice page where it describes all the neat-o military technology it would use for this exercise if Santa Claus was a military target. In 1998, NORAD brought its Santa tracking efforts online with it’s “ultra-cool, high-tech, high-speed Santa cams.”
NORAD wasn’t the first online Santa defense grid, though. Carl Malamud has maintained a Santa-watching Internet presence at north.pole.org since the early ’90s. It’s still available in its classic form. Those were the days, huh?
Unfortunately, Malamud’s north.pole.org was also the victim of one of the first big spam attacks. “The bad side of Santa Claus’s ‘naughty and nice’ data base just swelled by several megabytes,” the New York Times wrote on December 15, 1994, citing “computer experts” as the source.
But NORAD and Google don’t fall victim to that sort of thing. Their Santa tracking technologies are infallible. You can even download iPhone and Android apps to track Santa now. Starting at 2:00 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow, the defense grid will be tracking Santa’s position. It’s integrated into Google Maps, and there’s an extension for Google Earth. You can follow the countdown and find all the Santa targeting links at noradsanta.org.
What do you think of all this? Is high-tech mobile location tracking in the holiday spirit? What about all the military stuff? Maybe Google tracking is to 2012 what NORAD tracking was to the Cold War. Share your thoughts about tracking Santa’s location in the comments.