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The marvellous microwave network

The Story

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. 

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

Did You know?

• 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 ($421 million in 2015 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.



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