CBC Digital Archives

Internet: Fighting the future

From early dreams of global information networks to the dominance of the World Wide Web, networked computers have changed the way Canadians interact with the world. For more than three decades the CBC has reported these advances, some revolutionary, others mere flashes in the technological pan. From ARPANET to MP3s, we look at Canada's first steps onto the information highway, and the people who took us there.

media clip
In 1971 the Science Council of Canada announces it wants to look at creating a national computer network. When Leon Katz, chair of the study, appears on CBC Radio's Cross Country Checkup to explain the astounding possibilities of such a network, he's ill-prepared for the barrage of hostile reactions from across Canada. In this clip we hear a sampling of them: fears of invasion of privacy, wasted tax dollars, unemployment and a mountain of useless information.
. In 1970, as ARPANET was becoming operational, Joseph Reid of the Université du Québec began work on an inter-campus computer network in Canada. After meeting ARPA's Lawrence Roberts and learning about that network's packet switching technology, Reid lobbied to bring it to Canada. Reid had hoped the Université du Québec would be allowed to join ARPANET, but Roberts rejected the idea because of ARPANET's focus on U.S. defence.

. Leon Katz, the engineering and physics professor heard in this item, felt that the Canadian government should not have to rely on an American network like ARPANET. In August 1971, a few weeks before this item aired, he presented the Science Council of Canada with a report called "A Trans-Canada Computer Communications Network," suggesting Canada build its own network. But his report called upon the Science Council to conduct a full five years worth of research and tests before building anything.

. While Leon Katz and the Science Council researched the idea of creating a trans-Canada network, Joseph Reid of the Université du Québec joined other universities in lobbying the Department of Communications to create a separate academic network. The Canadian Universities Network (CANUnet) proposal generated a lot of excitement, but was eventually rejected by the Department of Communications in 1972.

. It was not until 1983 that DARPA (the U.S. Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency) gave permission to connect Canadian defence computers to ARPANET.
. Canada's own system, DRENet (Defence Research Establishment Network) went online in 1985.

. Leon Katz went on to make his mark in nuclear science and meteorology. He was a driving force behind the University of Saskatchewan's linear accelerator, which produces radiation for cancer therapy and helps researchers investigate the atomic nucleus. He was also a key player in the development of Doppler radar technology, which indicates the direction and speed at which precipitation moves. He was invested with the Order of Canada in 1974 and died in 2004.
Medium: Radio
Program: Cross Country Checkup
Broadcast Date: Sept. 12, 1971
Guest(s): Leon Katz
Host: Pierre Pascau
Duration: 11:28
This clip has been edited for length.

Last updated: September 10, 2014

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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