CBC Digital Archives

The marvellous microwave network

On a summer's day in 1927, Canadians coast to coast sat enthralled before their radio sets as Prime Minister Mackenzie King spoke to them from Parliament Hill. Through the 1930s radio kept them entertained, and in wartime radio kept them informed. Then, Canadians were captivated all over again by television. In 1952 a bald puppet named Uncle Chichimus ushered them into the TV age, and in 1966 an animated butterfly made Canadian TV a more colourful pace.

July 1, 1958, will be another Dominion Day to remember. Just as Canadians coast to coast were connected by the miracle of radio on July 1, 1927, they'll be brought together 31 years later by another technological wonder: the microwave network. The network can send a TV signal across the country in 1/50th of a second. On the eve of the network's launch, CBC Television's Scan shows off the marvel that brings live TV to all of Canada. 
• Microwave technology was developed during the Second World War as a means of communication.
• The first CBC microwave network, built in 1953, joined three cities: Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.
• Work on the nationwide microwave network began in 1954. The CBC wanted to be able to transmit programs to all stations simultaneously rather than sending out kinescope recordings, its former method of getting network programs to air.

• The Trans-Canada Telephone System, a group of long-distance telephone providers, built the network at a cost of $50 million ($350 million in 2005 dollars).
• Microwave towers had to be spaced across the network because microwaves -- very short radio waves -- travel in a straight line and do not follow the curvature of the Earth. Each tower had to be visible to the next in the line. The towers ranged from nine metres high in the prairies to over 100 metres high in the northern Ontario bush.

• CBC stations were added to the network as it was completed. Manitoba's link to this "communications skyway" was opened in September 1956; Alberta's was added in 1957.
• The microwave network stretched from Victoria, B.C., to Sydney, N.S. It linked CBC's six stations and 40 private affiliates.
• In 1959 the network was extended to Newfoundland.

Memo to Champlain was the CBC's first live coast-to-coast TV transmission. The 90-minute bilingual program featured CBC hosts Joyce Davidson and René Lévesque following Canada's history since the landing of explorer Samuel de Champlain. Prime Minister John Diefenbaker appeared on the program, which closed with a tribute to Canadian bush pilots.

Levesque
Medium: Television
Program: Scan
Broadcast Date: June 30, 1958
Guest(s): Len Peterson
Host: Rex Loring
Duration: 10:50

Last updated: April 10, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

1958: Canada broadcasts behind the Iron Curta...

The CBC's shortwave service goes to great lengths to reach listeners in communist countries.

1977: Question Period goes live

Question Period from the House of Commons is broadcast live on TV for the first time.