Signals Production Branch History May 1, 1942 - August 31, 1943 Continued from Home Page



An electric signal was first transmitted and received without benefit of intervening physical conductors by Sr. Guglielmo Marconi, at Bologna, Italy, less than 50 years ago.

At the time of writing this history, the activities of sailors, soldiers and airmen are coordinated over that same terrain by wireless devices, which not only send and receive signals, but also project the senses of hearing and seeing miles away with, not human, but mathematical accuracy.

Canadian Industry has been to the fore in spanning the intervening gap, from the day in December, 1901 -- shortly after Sr. Marconi's first transmission -- when a signal from across the Atlantic was first heard in St. John's, Newfoundland, to the day when warriors of the Allied Nations are disembarking on the shores of Italy, aided, somewhere along the line, by devices of Canadian manufacture which have incorporated in them the most modern of electro-magnetic technical developments.

One of the earliest practical applications of wireless was in marine communications.  Wireless operator, A.H. Cinman (?), now president of the Canadian Marconi Company, witnessed the relief of the first major marine disaster to be reported by radio, picking up the S.O.S. signals passing between the liners Republic and Florida and the shore.

Canada was also right at the forefront in the greatest development of wireless communications before the war -- Radio Broadcasting.  At Montreal in 1919, C.F.C.F. was amongst the first Canadian Broadcasting stations to go on the air.  By 1939 eighty-one broadcasting stations were operating in Canada under private and public ownership, all subject to government control.

Early stations were crude installations indeed, when judged by later standards.  Their radiations usually occupied much space in the radio spectrum and were inclined to wander about in the spectrum, causing interference, one with the other.

Control of such conditions became an international duty.  After one or two earlier efforts at control at by international agreement, a conference was held in Havana, Cuba, in 1937, at which all frequencies within the radio spectrum were redistributed amongst the North American countries, for their scientific conservation and utilization.  This, coupled with the enormous strides in technical development, has opened the fertile fields in which post-war expansion can far exceed anything accomplished to date.

While Industry, from the 1920s onward, concentrated on catering to the entertainment of the public with radio broadcasting, the commercial employment of wireless also went on apace. 

Long before the present hostilities started, marine navigation was be wireless direction finder and radio compass, the depth of the ocean was a continuous record on a dial in the wheelhouse and automatic alarms were set off by the signal S.O.S.  All this aside from telephone communication between the Master or passengers on a liner and associates ashore.

Before the war, Mr. Smith, sitting in his office in Toronto, could pick up his telephone and talk to a friend in Liverpool.  The transatlantic link in this telephone system was mechanically controlled radio beams in which privacy of speech was assured by a method of distortion of the transmission known as "Scrambling".

Police, Mining, Forestry and such services found untold advantages in the science of wireless communication.

Aviation, in its rapid growth, absorbed all that technique could provide and demanded more.  In 1937, Canadian-made radio beacons were installed in our airports.  So important was this as a factor of safety, that planes henceforth were automatically grounded if a beacon was found not operating.  At the same time a means of landing aircraft by remote radio control was in the development stage.  The necessities of war have produced still further, almost magic controls, which will remain secret until peace time.

Sound motion pictures, public address systems and industrial remote control devices are some of the myriad of electronic services growing parallel to the radio industry.  Before the war television, facsimile and frequency modulation were being prepared for public service, while the electron microscope was being perfected for the use of the scientist.  The post-war period should see the facilities quickly expanded, to the betterment of humanity.

In Canada, industrial effort has been divided mainly between Quebec and Ontario.  Of the eleven major radio establishments, the three largest are in Montreal, while the remainder are centred around Toronto.  The pre-war capitalization of the Canadian industry was approximately $12,000,000.  The major portion of this investment was used for the production of domestic broadcast transmitting and receiving equipment.  Manufacturing employed approximately 5,000 people, while distribution and service employed an additional 20,000.

The manufacturing setup is one of the most complex is all industry.  Starting by taking the time from the stars, to ensure the accuracy of wavelength, it ends up by adequately enclosing sources of electrical energy which would injure a person fatally, even though no direct physical contact were made with the apparatus.

Factory personnel include representatives of all Branches of the engineering profession.  the whole gamut of raw materials is used.  Production processes include those of raw materials inspection, tool room, punch press department, sheet metal working, cabinet making, automatic screw machine work, welding, cleaning, plating, painting, coil wiring, assembling, electrical and mechanical testing and packing.

A chart of domestic receiver sales will illustrate the pre-war industry in Canada, with its early trend to expensive sets, then the trend to volume and economy.  During this period the trend in design was from large battery operated models, covering a narrow range in the radio spectrum, to smaller, multi-band sets operating from A.C. power sources and covering a greatly increased range of the spectrum to bring continents into the living-room. The number of Canadian citizens to purchase radio receiving licenses grew to over 2,000,000.


Year            Units                $Value

1926           42,400              2,253,000

1930          170,100             19,197,000

1933          112,300              4,401,000

1937          289,200             11,697,000

1938          242,700              8,802,000

1939          348,500              8,678,000


These figures grow insignificant when compared with those for the last four of the years bridging the gap from Bologna to Bologna (?); as is illustrated in the succeeding pages.


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Signals Production Branch History Part Two

Signals Production History Part Three

Signals Production Branch History Part Four

Wireless Set No. 19 Home Page