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35 Canadian Innovations Pt 5: Telecommunications

30 June 2017

Frank Mirecki
Happy Canada Day! A lot of history has happened in the last 153 years. Over the last four posts, we have covered 24 world-changing Canadian innovations and today we round out our list of the top 35 Canadian innovations. We, at BrantTel, think that we have saved the best category for last: Telecommunications. The Canadian innovations for homes, sports, culture and medicine are all extremely important, but BrantTel would not be celebrating 38 years in business if it was not for Canada’s innovations in telecommunications! There are so many on this list we use every day.


In 1949, Irving J. Gross, a Toronto native, invented the first telephone pager system. His goal was to have the new system utilized for doctors, while it was not quickly adopted by the medical field we are sure you have seen a movie where a nurse announces “Paging Doctor so-and-so”. Irving Gross’ innovations have deeply affected the telecommunications. So much so, this is not the last time you will see him on this list.


Created by Research in Motion of Waterloo, Ontario (now BlackBerry Limited). History was made when RIM was founded in 1984 by a pair of engineering students, one each from the Universities of Waterloo and of Windsor. The original BlackBerry was released in the late 90’s and over time became the predecessor to the revolution of smart-phones within culture today.


Irving J. Gross is back on this list for round two. Prior to his patent for the pager, Gross was already a pioneer in mobile wireless communication. Irving Gross worked alongside others and developed the technology for walkie-talkies, that later made their debut in World War II. He began working with the earliest technology for walkie-talkies in 1934 and he went on to continue innovating until his death at 82.

Alkaline Batteries

Lewis Frederick Urry was a Canadian chemical engineer working in the United States who, in 1957, invented the modern dry alkaline battery. Building on the work of many other innovators like Thomas Edison, Urry utilized powdered zinc to do what no other innovator could do before him and brought to life the modern alkaline battery.


If there is one name on this list that almost everyone will recognize it is Alexander Graham Bell. Did you know that Bell began the most important parts of his innovation of the telephone in his family’s home near Brantford, Ontario? While Bell received an American patent in 1876, his innovating towards redefining human communication took place in Canada.

AM Radio

This first ever AM transmission was made by Canadian-born inventor Reginald Fessenden in late 1900. Whereas the telephone went on to connect people to people, AM Radio the world came into people’s homes. Thanks to Fessenden, his team and Canadian innovation the world was forever changed. Where there was once silence, there was now radio and vast access to information.


In 1969, Canada was invited by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to participate in the Space Shuttle program. The Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS), also known as Canadarm, is a series of robotic arms that were used on the Space Shuttle orbiters to deploy, maneuver and capture paylads. To bring the innovation to life multiple Canadian companies brought different pieces to the table to create the fully functioning Canadarm.


Every major movie now also debuts with an IMAX version, but it was in Canada in the late 1960s that Graeme Ferguson, Roman Kroitor, Robert Kerr, and William C. Shaw developed the technology to film and display such large images clearly. There are now IMAX theaters all over the world as the use of the technology has evolved greatly since its inception. The first permanent installation of an IMAX was in Toronto and the first movie played on it was “North of Superior” in May 1971.

56k Modem

Digital modems developed from the need to transmit data for North American air defense during the 1950s. Typical modem speeds progressed through 1200, 2400, 4800 and 9600 bps. Modem speeds were increased to 14.4 kilobits per second by 1991. The speeds continue to push the envelope of the capacity of the telephone system until the 56K modem was invented by Canadian Inventor and electrical engineer, Dr. Brent Townshend in 1996. With virtually all commercial PCs shipping with 56K modems as a standard feature, the number of modems shipping this year worldwide is expected to reach about 120 million.


Whether you are personally familiar with Java as a computer programming language, it has revolutionized user-friendly programming. James Gosling, a Canadian Computer Scientist initiated the Java language project in June 1991. Java was originally designed for interactive television, but it was too advanced for the digital cable television industry at the time. The programming language went by the names Oak, Green and then finally Java, after coffee.


Sonar is found in nature in such animals as bats and dolphins, but in after the sinking of the Titanic scientists began exploring better ways to detect objects underneath the Ocean’s surface. Two notable Canadian innovators over a span of a few years helped to develop modern SONAR. The first innovator (whom we have already listed), Reginald Fessenden, built an early system in 1912 that was tested in Boston Harbor. In 1916, Canadian physicist, Robert William Boyle took on the next generation of the project on behalf of the Anti-Submarine Division of the British Naval Staff. Canadian innovators worked across time and geography to create a new tool that became priceless in World War I & II.
Well, that does it for our coverage of the 35 top Canadian innovations. There is a lot of information to take in throughout the categories of Home, Sports, Culture, Medicine and Telecommunications. One major takeaway we cannot ignore, is that since its inception 153 years ago, Canada has innovated its way into world history. Our Nation’s contributions have made the world-over safer, friendlier, more fun, and more productive. We at BrantTel love being a part of the innovative Canadian culture and commit to another 38 years of innovating telecommunication solutions. Happy Canada Day!
Frank Mirecki
30 June 2017

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30 June 2017
35 Canadian Innovations Pt 5: Telecommunications

Happy Canada Day! A lot of history has happened in the last 153 years. Over the last four posts, we have covered 24 world-changing Canadian innovations and today we round out our list of the top 35 Canadian innovations. We, at BrantTel, think that we have saved the best category for last: Telecommunications. The Canadian […]

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