It was more than half a century ago, on Christmas Eve in 1955, that a Sears Roebuck & Co. store in Colorado Springs advertised a special hotline number for kids to call Santa.
What the company didn’t know at the time was that they had inadvertently misprinted the telephone number. Instead of Santa’s workshop, the phone number put kids through to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the bi-national U.S.-Canadian military organization responsible for the aerospace defense of the U. S. and Canada. Worse, it wasn’t just any number at NORAD: it was the commander-in-chief’s operations hotline. In the spirit of the season, Colonel Harry Shoup, the director of operations at the time, had his staff check radar data for any indication of a sleigh making its way south from the North Pole.
They found that indeed there were signs of Santa, and merrily gave the children who called an update on his location. Thus, a tradition was born, and NORAD has continued to help children track Santa on Christmas Eve ever since.
It just so happens that Colonel Shoup is my grandfather, which is why I’m so excited that, 52 years later, Google is joining the effort. This holiday season, NORAD has partnered with Google to use technology including Google Maps, Google Earth, iGoogle and YouTube to track Santa. I can remember tracking Santa with my grandfather as a child, and I’m so proud to see my company carry on his vision of doing something this special for kids around the world.
The countdown begins December 1st on NORAD’s website, where families can find a new kid-friendly game or activity every day until December 24th. And starting at 1:00 am PST on December 24th, you’ll be able to track Santa’s trip in real time. You can download Google Earth and add the NORAD Tracks Santa iGoogle gadget to your iGoogle page anytime, but make sure to come back to noradsanta.org on December 24th to download the special Santa Tracking file for an enhanced 3D Santa-tracking experience.