HERITAGE MINUTES#PARTOF OUR HERITAGE

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HERITAGE MINUTES

#PARTOFOURHERITAGE

RELEASED 1993

Recalls the vision of Bell Canada's Thomas Eadie, whose determination led to the trans-Canadian microwave network, which began to carry television broadcasts and telephone calls across the country.

The end of the Second World War brought a boom to Canada. Business thrived and people built new homes. The demand for telephone communication exploded, yet the telephone companies were not equipped for the challenge. What was needed was a new invention, and a person with the energy and vision to turn that new technology into a reality.

The invention that changed Canadian telecommunications was microwave radio relay. A microwave is an energy wave of extremely short length. Its short length gives it a high frequency. In a microwave oven, that high frequency, translated as heat, cooks food quickly. As a radio wave, a microwave travels at the speed of light. With a series of relay towers, a microwave signal can cross the continent in a mere one-fiftieth of a second.

Thomas Eadie was passionate about the future of telecommunications. As president of the Bell Telephone Company of Canada, he and Alphonse Ouimet, head of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, spent long hours discussing the promise of microwave relay, not only for telephone transmission, but for radio and TV broadcasting, and even printed communication.

In 1952 Eadie began to spread his message; what he proposed was a microwave system that would span the entire continent. Eadie was taking a big risk. There was no proof that this system would actually work. Microwave was expensive: huge towers, 139 of them, had to be built right across the country to receive and transmit the signals. Telephone companies were sceptical, but Thomas Eadie was single-minded and persuasive about his vision. He travelled from province to province, convincing provincial Ministers of the advantages of an all-Canadian network using all-Canadian equipment.

On March 8, 1955 work began on the coast-to-coast microwave system. Shortly after, the imposing microwave towers with their giant antenna 'eyes' appeared on the Canadian landscape. The building of these giant towers remains one of the great construction sagas in Canada. Much of the microwave route ran through uninhabited, rugged terrain. British Columbia posed extreme problems, as 10 of the 13 microwave tower sites were built high on remote mountain ridges.

Despite the problems, in just three years the project was completed on schedule. Thomas Eadie praised the people who built this electronic highway, saying it was "a great triumph for Canadian engineering, manufacturing and construction." But credit must also be given to the man who saw what was possible, and followed through in making it a reality -- Thomas Eadie.

CAST
  • Thomas Eadie – Mark Walker
  • Director – Walter Massey
  • Engineer – Doug Price
  • J.A. Ouimet – Marc Legault
  • Additional Cast – Sonja Ball
  • Additional Cast – Huguette Gervais
  • Additional Cast – Anthony Robinow