History of Telecommunications in Canada


The Telegraph

The Telephone

The history of telephony in Canada is intimately associated with Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, and his Canadian ties.

An excellent account of the events leading up to the invention of the telephone may be found at "Alexander Graham Bell 1847-1922 The Inventor of the Telephone". This account is taken, with permission of the author, from R.N.E. Haughton's magnificent work "The Telecommunications Mosaic: An Introduction to the Information Era". This text has been used in the course 94.470 Telecommunications Engineering at Carleton University for over twelve years.

Radio Communications

According to the article "The Wireless Telegraph Service" published on the web site "A History of the Canadian Coast Guard and Marine Services" of Fisheries and Oceans Canada:

"The first radio communication in Canada was established by the Marconi Company of London in 1901. At that time the Telegraph Division of the Department of Public Works had a submarine cable from Canada to Newfoundland by way of the Belle Isle Strait. Communication by this route was some-times interrupted by ice damage and, to improve the situation, wireless transmission was established between the terminus of the north shore telegraph line at Chateau Bay in Quebec and the Belle Isle.

In the same year, Guglielmo Marconi himself, seated before a wireless receiver installed in the tower on Signal Hill at St. John's, Newfoundland, succeeded in picking up a signal transmitted from his station at Poldhu in Cornwall. This historic transmission, the first trans-Atlantic radio signal, took the form of the three dots of the Morse letter "S", and was sent with the aid of a copper wire aerial which the Marconi engineers had ingeniously hoisted aloft by means of a kite."

Marconi's well-known place in history as the first to achieve Trans-Atlantic radio communications has been questioned by Dr. J. S. Belrose of the Communications Research Centre in a fascinating paper "A Radioscientist's Reaction to Marconi's First Transatlantic Wireless Experiment - Revisited".

Dr. Belrose, an internationally recognized radio physicist, is Canada's foremost authority on the lower ionosphere. He is also the champion of Reginald Aubrey Fessenden - the father of AM radio. Fessenden's place in history in documented in Dr. Belrose's paper "On the Birth of Wireless Telephony". Fessenden transmitted speech over a 1600 m wireless link on December 23, 1900 - the first time intelligible speech had been transmitted by electromagnetic means over a wireless path.