"TELEPHONY--A NEW ERA IN THE MAKING"
An Address by THOMAS WARDROPE EADIE
President, The Bell Telephone Company of Canada
Thursday, October 29th, 1953
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. A. E. M. Inwood.
MR. INWOOD: Thirty-six years ago-on November 1st, 1917; the inventor of the telephone, Professor Alexander Graham Bell, addressed The Empire Club of Canada here in Toronto and this is the first time since that memorable occasion that we have been honoured by a visitor from the telephone industry.
In reviewing Professor Bell's address in our yearbook of 1917, I noticed that he invented the telephone while on his vacation in Brantford, Ontario, and curiously enough, people today while on their vacations, will drive hundreds of miles into the wilderness so that they can't hear it ring.
The telephone he invented in Brantford in 1874 was not manufactured until 1875 when it appeared in Boston: so that actually it was conceived in Brantford, born in Boston and is now claimed by the Russians. However, we are certain that they cannot claim our guest speaker.
Gentlemen, it is a great pleasure for the second week in succession to welcome a guest speaker from Montreal--Mr. Thomas W. Eadie, President of The Bell Telephone Company of Canada.
Since 1945 this corporation has increased its service from one million to over two million telephones; its capital expansion has been greater than any other Canadian company-from 180 million to over 540 million dollars; and last year it paid to our government over 30 million dollars in taxes.
This does not merely reflect the growth in demand for telephone service by a growth in population, but it does reflect the public awareness of the value of the service of The Bell Telephone Company of Canada which is unequalled anywhere in the world. For example, in 1945, there were 33 telephones to every 100 people in Canada and now there are 42 to every 100 people--an increase of 25% in telephone development.
There is no other country in the world where there are as many telephone conversations per capita as in Canada: which might or might not be due to our increasing feminine population rather than the excellent service provided by Mr. Eadie.
Mr. Eadie was born in Ottawa, attended Ottawa Collegiate Institute, McGill University and served in the Royal Canadian Naval Air Service during World War I. He joined "the Bell" as an engineer in June 1923, and served continuously with them through many of their technical and administrative departments. He was appointed a director in 1951 and president in July, 1953.
He is a past president of the Telephone Association of Canada, Royal Canadian Institute and the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (Toronto Section).
His topic today is "Telephony, a New Era in the Making."
MR. EADIE: For fifty of the most momentuous years of history, the members of the Empire Club have given serious and enlightened study to the important questions of the day--both Canadian and international. I think it certain that through your members this club has had a real influence on the course of Canadian affairs. I am indeed honoured to be asked to speak to you in this, your golden anniversary year.
You will understand I make my appearance here with a certain feeling of apprehension. In the first place, I know that this audience has a high standard against which to measure my performance. Secondly, I feel a considerable responsibility to the telephone industry and the people who compose it. It is my obligation to present our industry to you in a way that will do justice to both.
I am encouraged, however, by my firm belief that what is happening in the telephone industry today--its quite startling progress--will be of interest to you. A new era is in the making. Today we are working with mechanical and electronic devices which a short time ago would have been classed as science fiction. Behind the scenes this brings continual high interest-the thrill of discovery and the satisfaction of achievement. On the surface and in the view of the telephone user there is simply good telephone service. New developments, even major developments may be noted in passing, but so quickly do they become part of everyday telephone service that they too are soon taken for granted. And so it is my aim today to give you something of a telephone man's view of what is happening in his industry and of those new developments which I, myself, find very exciting.
Telephone service shares fully in that remarkable trend of the modern world--the elimination of the effects of time and distance. As a result it is becoming just as quick and just as easy to telephone across a continent as across a town.
The most striking aspect of telephone development today is in fact the extension of mechanization--that is direct dialing--to long distance operation. Already about a third of all long distance calls in Canada are dialed by the operator straight through to the distant telephone. In two or three years that figure will have risen to three-quarters. And soon you, our customers, will be dialing your own long distance calls, without regard to provincial or international boundaries. Now to provide this and related improvements in service, we have had to devise totally new equipment: compact, automatic and swift in action. Many of its components have been miniaturized--either reduced amazingly in size from earlier models or designed on a Lilliputian scale. (Fortunately for me the trend towards miniaturization, while affecting numerous items of telephone equipment, has not yet been applied to telephone presidents!!).
Miniaturization is being made possible by the development of some remarkable electronic devices, chief among them the transistor. This is a transistor. My hand is not too good a display board. Perhaps this will help you see it. Such a tiny transistor will do most of the work of a vacuum tube--like this--and many other jobs too. It was developed by telephone scientists expressly for telephone purposes.
But the transistor is more than just a simplified, economical replacement for a larger piece of equipment. It is a rugged little product; even present experience shows that it has far longer life than a vacuum tube. And it uses only one-one hundred thousandth of the power. It needs no "warm up" period since it goes to work in the millionth part of a second. Transistor-equipped assemblies can be arranged as simple plug-in units and are extremely easy to replace should any trouble occur. Here's an example--this is a complete transistor oscillator ready to plug in, and made up of 10 separate components embedded in plastic. The transistor is indeed the tool we need to do the things that the future of our business requires.
Its smallness is apparent. Its long life you will have to take my word for. But I can demonstrate to you the low power consumption.
This affair is another type of transistor-run oscillator prepared for demonstration purposes. Its sole aim in life is to make a noise. It is simply an electrical tuning fork of a single frequency. A battery is needed to put it to work, but it uses so little power that I can make a satisfactory battery with just a 25-cent piece and a bit of damp paper. A small corner of the Globe and Mail will do it, and perhaps you would lend me a quarter. The feeble chemical reaction between the paper and the silver coin produces a tiny flow of electrical energy--enough to feed a transistor. Now, battery ready, I connect the oscillator--and you should be able to hear the result. Transistor equipped hearing aids now being made require a battery not much bigger than a dime. A transistor radio in your car--when it is developed--will put no more drain on your battery than does the tiny light bulb behind the dial. I have personally broadcast a message over a radio transmitter built of transistors and other tiny components which was smaller than this package of cigarettes. That is as close as we have come to the wish of some folk to carry a telephone around in their vest pocket. For my part, I feel life is already sufficiently complicated, without such an added convenience.
But my subject is telephony and I won't stray any further. I mentioned earlier the development of direct dialing of telephone calls across the continent. I would like to give you a further picture of direct dialing and what it will mean to you who use the telephone.
Telephone people in Canada and *the United States realized some years back that a terrific upsurge in long distance demand was on the way. Actually, long distance calls have doubled in volume in the past eight years. To meet this demand and also maintain a high quality of service, a radically new technique for switching and completing the calls was needed-that was evident. The direct dialing plan developed out of our deliberations on the subject. The dialing of long distance calls on a continent-wide scale straight through to the destination is our goal--replacing the "relay race" system by which the call is passed from operator to operator until the final connection is made. The new system will limit operating costs, increase capacity and give speedier and more effective service.
We are sure, too, that it will attract new business and thus counterbalance the effect of greater mechanization on the opportunities for telephone employment. Certainly there has been no reduction in the ranks of telephone operators since local dial service was introduced. Indeed, without the dial telephone there just wouldn't be enough girls available to cope with the number of calls we put through today.
Here in Ontario and Quebec we have been developing a somewhat limited system of direct dialing for several years. As I said, about one third of all our long distance calls are now dialed direct to the called telephone. We are working towards the day when your operator--or you will be dialing direct to telephones in practically every exchange in Canada and the United States. I'll even go out on a limb and prophesy that the day is not too distant when you will be dialing your own calls from Bay Street to Threadneedle Street in Old London.
The major long distance dialing development in this part of Canada will take place within the next three years when we have finished installing new switching systems of amazing capability in Toronto and Montreal. These will make possible operator dialing between most cities of Ontario and Quebec, as well as to the Maritime Provinces and the West. The system will provide, too, for connections right across the United States.
Today your long distance operator receives information about a call, writes down that information, checks her records as to which routes are available, sets up a circuit to the called city and sends the call on to its destination. The new switching equipment will do all that work. Having accepted a call, it looks up routes with the aid of an electronic card index, remembers the ten digits dialed while it is selecting and trying routes, and then, once the call is on its way, gets to work on a new one without even pausing for breath. In fact it is capable of altering its own instructions when this is necessary-even dropping or rearranging the digits initially dialed.
I would like to take you for a moment inside our electronic card-index, the heart of this operation. It has three main elements: a light source, a set of about 1,000 perforated metal cards and a bank of light-sensitive phototransistors--one corresponding to each perforation in the card. The photo-transistor is a member of the transistor family behaving like a photo-electric cell, or maybe to you, an electric eye. This is in fact a complete photo transistor assembly ready for operation, with a receptive lens included. The actual transistor inside is much smaller. Here is one of the metal index-cards. You will note that certain holes are larger than the others. The enlargements, which vary from card to card, represent information about long distance routes.
Here is how the system works. The cards are stacked in the box so that the light shines through the perforations onto the phototransistors. The cards are supported on metal bars, and, when a call arrives, the bars move so that just one card, which corresponds to the destination code which has been dialed, drops slightly. This movement blocks the light except where it continues to shine through the enlarged holes, and the pattern of light that the phototransistors receive tells them what routes the equipment should try in order to complete the call. With the aid of other transistors, which amplify the weak signal, this information is passed along further, and the call is then completed automatically. The whole operation--finding the card, consulting it and acting on its advice--takes only half a second.
Customer dialing of long distance calls depends upon further equipment which is able to perform the recording part of an operator's work. It will note automatically the caller's telephone number, the city and number called and the duration of the call.
In the early planning for continent-wide long distance dialing, the theme was "all roads lead to St. Louis". For geographical reasons this Missouri city was chosen as the hub of the North American toll dialing network, and final routes-that is those to be used should the more direct routes all be occupied-were engineered to pass through it, so that quite a number of all-Canadian calls would be routed through the United States if the direct lines were busy. Well, to us in Canada it didn't appear entirely logical that a call from Halifax to Vancouver, for example, or one from Toronto to Winnipeg should ever have to go south of the border. The seven Companies comprising the Trans-Canada Telephone System, therefore gave the project further study and decided that we should develop a parallel system of our own-to be linked with the United States network for calls between the two countries. Main traffic centres for this system will be established in eastern and western Canada.
Seeking greater speed of connection, we have also developed a new method of feeding telphone numbers into the main traffic centres. I've been talking about the "dialing" of long distance calls. Actually, very many long distance operators today punch out the number on a set of keys like those of an adding-machine. The keys on this box in my hand-for calls routed through the main switching centres, keys like these will also activate a new signalling system.
Each digit in this new signalling system is represented by a separate pair of electrical frequencies-or musical tones. They sound like this. I am going to sound "O" first, one of the tones, and then the two together. These tones can, of course, be sent over the wires much more quickly than the single-file procession of impulses produced by ordinary dialing. Let's transmit "9" as an example. First I'll dial it. The dial, you'll realize, does its job on the return, and so must run back at an even speed. This dial is just like the one on your office telephone. Now I'll key-pulse it. Let me do that for "O" too. And you might be interested to hear how a complete telephone number sounds. Imagine that I'm a long distance operator in Montreal calling the Bell Telephone offices in Toronto. The number is EMpire 8-3911, and under the new switching system this will be preceded by the three digit routing code for the areas centred on Toronto-416. So--to ring a telephone hundreds of miles away--I have only to transmit ten tones representing: 4-1-6-E-M-8-3-9-1-1. Here they are. I'm afraid I can't claim the speed and the lightness of touch of one of our operators. I'm told that some people don't find these sounds harmonious. But they are music in the ears of a telephone engineer. For they are a very swift and reliable way of transmitting telephone numbers. And I'm of Scottish descent, so they remind me of an instrument of great charm.
Improvement in our industry proceeds generally along two main avenues--switching and transmission. The system of direct dialing is an outstanding example of improvement in switching--the greater application of radio is an equally striking example of improvement in transmission.
The use of the air waves in everyday telephone communications increases steadily. There is a microwave radio relay chain between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal for the simultaneous transmission of hundreds of telephone conversations and a television program. We're constructing a link to Quebec city, planning another to Windsor, and further projects are in the engineering stage. Still another chain operates in the Maritimes. Radio, of course, carries telephone calls across the ocean. Canadian telephone systems operate numerous ship-to-shore installations, and radio-telephone links are the only communications to many parts of the far north. There is an extensive mobile telephone network operated by radio covering the cities and highways of Ontario and Quebec from Windsor to Montreal.
In radio installations, too, much of the equipment is amazingly compact in view of its intricacy. Take this vacuum tube, for example. No, I'm sorry, that's just a household fuse familiar to all of you. Here's the vacuum tube. About the same size as the fuse, but it's the newly developed work horse of the radio relay system. Such a tube requires precision in manufacture far greater than does the most delicate watch. The wire comprising its grid is so fine that 100 strands twisted into a cable would be no thicker than single human hair. A strand is actually dangling from this card. No die on earth could by itself produce wire like this. It is made by drawing the wire as fine as possible and then etching away part of it with acid. I can barely see it from here. Perhaps some of you would like to test your eyesight on it later.
You might like to compare the size and performance of this diminutive tube with the vacuum tube I showed you earlier. Here they are. The large tube, which is still standard equipment, amplifies three telephone conversations. The radio relay tube is now being used in microwave equipment to amplify as many as 480 conversations and that is by no means the limit of its capacity.
As you're probably aware, another system besides radio relay is used for the simultaneous transmission of long distance conversations and TV programs-coaxial cable. Naturally, we in Canada have studied both systems, but so far they have supported the conclusion that radio relay was better suited to our purpose. But I want to give you a general picture of our new era in telephony, and in recent coaxial cable development there's a remarkable example of the miniaturization I've been talking about. Coaxial cable--like this--will carry hundreds of telephone conversations at the same time--along a single copper wire which runs through a copper tube--but it does require amplifiers--or boosters--at regular intervals to maintain the strength of the signal. Complex pieces of electronic equipment like this. Now here is a new kind of coaxial cable. The amplifier? Thanks to the transistor and some other developments, it's buiit right into the cable, itself. Actually in a hump between my two hands--a length of about an inch and a half.
Not so very long ago we needed two copper wires of this size to transmit a single long distance telephone conversation. Now hundreds of conversations can be sent along coaxial cable of much smaller dimensions than even one of these wires or, indeed, without wire or cable at all--by microwave radio relay.
Well, I've used quite a few pieces of equipment, old and new, to illustrate this talk. Here's a final item which points far into the future. It's a ferroelectric crystal, which measures less than half an inch square and only a few thousandths of an inch thick. It is crosshatched with wire--ten wires in each direction making 100 points of crossover. It's a regular beehive of electrical memory, and memory is essential to the telephone industry. For example, each telephone number that is dialed must be remembered on a set of relays in a telephone office until the final connection is made. Relays like this. The tiny crystal is capable of doing the memory work of twenty-five of these relays. It is not too complex. There are 100 contacts between the wires where they cross. By applying an electric current to the wires, we develop pressures at the points of contact. By varying the voltage of the current, we can vary the intensity of the pressure at each point. If each of the voltages applied is peculiar to the piece of information which we wish to have remembered, then with one hundred different voltages developing one hundred different pressures, we can store-up one hundred bits of information at the 100 points of contact on this tiny electric brain. And it will pass along the remembered information at the precisely correct moment to activate further equipment.
With this device--and the transistor--there may one day be a telephone exchange in which all connections are made electronically instead of by electrically activated mechanical devices as they are at present. The compactness of such an exchange will mean remarkable savings in space, structural requirements and raw materials.
Well, gentlemen, my pockets are empty. During the past half hour I've tried to show you some of the ways the telephone industry is working to provide the efficient, dependable telephone service that is vital, we feel, to the economic and social progress of our country. To put it in compact, miniaturized terms-good service at low cost. Let me close with a thought about the future, but particularly the passage of the next fifty years--and the advent of your hundredth anniversary. I'm sure both the Empire Club and the telephone industry can look forward to that date with well-founded confidence. Perhaps you'll call on us in the year 2003 to justify our claim of today that for telephony there is a new era in the making.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. Sydney Hermant, a Past President of the Club.