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Welcome to the modern age: When your child asks you where Santa is on Christmas Eve, you can turn to the web. Most prominently, the NORAD Santa Tracker.
For the past 58 years, various incarnations of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) have been tracking Santa’s progress across the Earth delivering presents, and each year a new degree of technology has been added to the process.
This year, NORADSanta.org features an advent calendar of interactive games, a library of reading materials, holiday music and videos featuring Santa’s journey across the globe.
But NORAD’s Santa tracker is supported by corporate sponsorship, not the military budget — “Everything from computer servers, web site design, video imaging, Santa’s tracking map, and telephone services are donated,” says the Our Team page.
The most prominent sponsor is Microsoft (s MSFT), plugging its Internet Explorer. But there’s support across other operating systems as well: For families on the go, NORAD Tracks Santa is available as both an iOS (s AAPL) and Android (s GOOG) app — features including two games, a countdown to Santa’s arrival and (of course) a tracker to indicate where Santa is currently.
YouTube users can subscribe to the NORAD Tracks Santa YouTube feed, which will be posting animated updates throughout the day, and of course Twitter will provide “up-to-the-minute information” on his progress.
Quite a lot of tech for something that began with a typo, according to the official NORAD Santa site:
The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement misprinted the telephone number for children to call Santa. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief’s operations “hotline.” The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born.
But this year, NORAD Tracks Santa picked up some controversy over how the image of Santa being accompanied by fighter jets overly militarizes the holiday. So if you’re looking for a non-NORAD option, Android users can download Google’s Santa Tracker, which offers real-time maps and another selection of games for Christmas Eve, plus the ability to beam everything to the big screen via Chromecast support.
It’s all not quite a Christmas miracle, but it’s still a source of holiday joy.