Milestone-Proposal talk:The Trans-Canada Microwave System, 1958

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Advocates and reviewers will post their comments below. In addition, any IEEE member can sign in with their ETHW login (different from IEEE Single Sign On) and comment on the milestone proposal's accuracy or completeness as a form of public review.

The Advocate for this proposal -- John Vardalas (talk) 07:41, 23 November 2021 (UTC)[edit | reply | new]

My name is Dr. John Vardalas. I retired as the Senior Historian at the IEEE History Center. I've also served for 4 years on IEEE's History Committee. I've been asked to serve as an Advocate for this Milestone proposal.


My responsibility is to help navigate this proposal through the Milestone approval process. The first step is to obtain two qualified reviewers to assess this proposal. Two have already agreed to do the assessment. Their reviews will appear on this Discussion page within the next week.


I look forward to working with the proposer to bring this IEEE Milestone nomination to a successful conclusion.

Assessment from First Reviewer -- John Vardalas (talk) 16:14, 23 November 2021 (UTC)[edit | reply | new]

Below, verbatum, is the first review of the proposal


“I have worked at the national museum for over 30 years, first as an historian of technology and then as curator of transportation. In my capacity as historian I wrote two historical reports on radio technology. One, Radio Communication in Canada: An Historical and Technological Survey was published as part of our Transformation Series in 1990. The second report was on the history of broadcasting technology in Canada. It was not published but is available in our library.


1) Is the suggested wording of the Plaque Citation accurate?

The Plaque citation is accurate. The style is clear and concise and communicates both the basic facts and the national significance of the achievement without overstatement or exaggeration.

2) Is the evidence presented in the proposal of sufficient substance and accuracy to support the Citation?

The evidence provided is thorough and accurate. There is sufficient technical detail to reflect the daunting nature and scope of the engineering work demanded of the builders. The authors also capture some of the political and regulatory hurdles facing any major national infrastructure project in a federal nation. The only small oversight is the failure to mention the fact that the CBC was a publicly-owned and operated national broadcasting network with a strong mandate to build and cultivate Canadian culture by providing original content to all Canadians. For CBC to realize the full potential of television as a national medium, they needed access to a high capacity network.

3) Does the proposed milestone represent a significant technical achievement?

Without a doubt, this was an achievement of outstanding national significance from a technical, social, and cultural point of view. It not only expanded the reach of our communications networks; it also made day-to-day communications faster, easier, and more reliable. Through the CBC and its national television network, it shaped how we saw ourselves as people and as a nation.

Sharon A. Babaian

Curator, Transportation (Land and Marine) Ingenium, Canada's Museums of Science and Innovation”

Re: Assessment from First Reviewer -- Dmichelson (talk) 17:00, 23 November 2021 (UTC)[edit | reply | new]

As recommended by Sharon Babaian, I've inserted a paragraph concerning the impact of the TCMS on the CBC. Thanks, Sharon!

Engineering Institute of Canada in support of the Milestone proposal -- Administrator1 (talk) 18:17, 23 November 2021 (UTC)[edit | reply | new]

The letter from the Engineering Institute of Canada in support of the Milestone proposal has been provided by John Vardalas, the Milestone advocate.

Re: Engineering Institute of Canada in support of the Milestone proposal -- Dmichelson (talk) 22:07, 23 November 2021 (UTC)[edit | reply | new]

For convenience, here is the full text of the linked letter:

On behalf of the History and Archives Committee of the Engineering Institute of Canada, I am delighted to offer our full support for IEEE Canada’s proposal to recognize completion of the Trans-Canada Microwave System in 1958 as an IEEE Milestone, including the possibility of mounting Milestone plaques at multiple sites across Canada with simultaneous dedication on Canada Day 2022.

As part of the Canadian Engineering Centennial in 1987, an eight-member jury appointed by the Engineering Institute of Canada selected the ten most exceptional and representative feats of Canadian Engineering's First Century (1887-1987) from a pool of 110 projects. The selection criteria were very stringent. Besides demonstrating the obvious engineering advance, each project had to have catalyzed major economic and social change within its own era. Each must have posed "extraordinary demands in organization and administration" and, within the context, "be identified by its original character, ingenuity, creativity and true uniqueness."

The EIC jury recognized the Trans-Canada Microwave System as one of the ten most exceptional and representative feats with the following citation:

The Trans-Canada Microwave System - The largest microwave transmission network in the world

This network of microwave transmission is the backbone of our system of telecommunication from sea to sea. Sponsored by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and executed by the seven members of the Trans- Canada telephone system, this network was constructed in three years involving 139 towers (ranging in height from 9.14 m to 106.68 m) over a 6,276.27 km track from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia. Newfoundland was linked later. The system is designed to provide distortion-free images in telecasting. Site marking, construction of access routes, trials, and the feed back to the final erection of the galvanized steel towers developed a Canadian engineering know-how that is recognized internationally and resulted in Canadian involvement in the PANAFTEL network linking French Africa with Paris.

The proposed citation for the IEEE Milestone plaque

On 1 July 1958, the Trans-Canada Microwave System introduced both live network television and direct-dialled long distance telephone service to Canadians from coast to coast. Comprising 139 microwave relay towers spanning more than 6275 kilometres, it was, at time of completion, the longest such network in the world. Its impact on Canada, its society and its economy was immense.

is both accurate and concise, and consistent with EIC’s own citation.

The evidence presented in the Milestone proposal is of sufficient substance and accuracy to support the citation.

The proposed recognition from IEEE will do much to raise awareness of this important achievement amongst both the public and the profession. We would be more than happy to provide more information and be of any assistance to contribute to this major project.

Suzelle Barrington, ing., agr. Chair, History and Archive Committee, Engineering Institute of Canada

Assessment from Second Reviewer -- John Vardalas (talk) 20:29, 23 November 2021 (UTC)[edit | reply | new]

Mike Paraskake is the President of SkySwitch Networks, a Vancouver-based telecommunications consulting firm. He has intimate knowledge of the workings of the Trans Canada Microwave System during the latter half of its operational life.

Below is his review, verbatim, of this proposal.

===============================[edit | reply | new]

"1) Is the suggested wording of the Plaque Citation accurate?

Yes, it is accurate.

Some small wording changes in italics

On 1 July 1958, the Trans-Canada Microwave System introduced both live network television and direct-dialled long distance telephone service to Canadians from coast to coast. Comprising 139 microwave relay towers spanning more than 6275 kilometres, it was, at time of completion, the longest such network in the world. Its impact on Canada, its society, and its economy was immense.

2) Is the evidence presented in the proposal of sufficient substance and accuracy to support the Citation?

Yes, the evidence presented in the proposal is of sufficient substance and accuracy. If additional evidence is required there is additional literature that has been archived in photos, engineering documentation, and training documentation. Bellcore Standards documentation exists as well describing the network in greater detail in terms of the engineering."

3) Does the proposed milestone represent a significant technical achievement?

Yes, the proposed milestone does represent a significant technical achievement. The network was a significant Engineering achievement at the time in terms of providing high reliability Broadband communication services over a vast distance connecting Canada coast to coast. It also provided live TV broadcast for the Canadian Broadcast Corporation providing television services across the whole country. Other networks were added to the system at a later date with a National Delay Centre in Calgary. Not only is the radio microwave system an achievement itself but the complex multiplex carrier systems, alarm supervisory control systems, wireline entrance link switching, supervisory radios and network of Regional Control Centres.

The system was continuously being upgraded to provide better service and extend the life of the network beyond its original design parameters. The system was kept running later on in tandem with the new Digital SONET Radio system for a number of years before being decommissioned. The new digital radio systems shared the same radio microwave site towers.

4) Do the references support the claims being made?

Yes, the references do support the claims being made. The reference material does explain the scope of the radio network and the engineering techniques used in achieving network reliability and protection switching. Several radio microwave overbuilds were built subsequent to the original 1958 sites to provide intra-provincial communication services for provinces across the country. Additional radio channels extended the national network to the United States and International gateway sites connecting Canada to the rest of the world as well via satellite and undersea cables."

Re: Assessment from Second Reviewer -- Dmichelson (talk) 21:09, 23 November 2021 (UTC)[edit | reply | new]

I've modified the citation as recommended by Mike Paraskake. Thanks, Mike!

Re: Re: Assessment from Second Reviewer -- Dmichelson (talk) 15:19, 24 November 2021 (UTC)[edit | reply | new]

In offline discussion, Mike Paraskake reiterated his strong interest in capturing the notion that the system had been extended and upgraded during its lifetime. Adding the four words in italics to the citation will capture this, and still clock in with just 63 words.

On 1 July 1958, the Trans-Canada Microwave System introduced both live network television and direct-dialled long distance telephone service to Canadians from coast to coast. Comprising 139 microwave relay towers spanning more than 6275 kilometres, it was, at time of completion, the longest such network in the world. Later extended and upgraded, its impact on Canada, its society and its economy was immense.

Comments from Ed Frazer, P.Eng. -- Dmichelson (talk) 07:35, 26 November 2021 (UTC)[edit | reply | new]

I solicited this informal review from an engineer with contemporary knowledge of the system...

I have reviewed this IEEE Milestone proposal, and in my opinion, it ably meets the requirements of being historically significant in technological, scientific and social importance. Although not directly involved in the System’s design or execution, I had direct knowledge of the project, and feel qualified as to its merits. Let me explain my connection.

In the summer of 1957, while a student in Electrical Engineering at the University of British Columbia, I was hired by the North-West Telephone Company of Vancouver (a division of BC Tel, to assist their radio engineers to design and survey point-to point radio systems around the province. These same engineers had been involved in the design of the B.C. portion of the Trans-Canada TD-2 microwave system that is the subject of this Milestone Proposal. At this point in time, the microwave system was being constructed across Canada, and the towers, building, power system and radio apparatus was being installed. During my four-month tenure, I was privileged to overhear much discussion of the work being done on the microwave system.

Following graduation in the following year with the BASc in Engineering from UBC, I was invited to join the radio engineering staff of BC Tel [BC Telephone Company] and continued working on the planning and design of radio systems to connect northern and coastal communities of the province, in some cases tying into the same radio sites occupied by the TD-2 microwave systems. After four years, I resigned from BC Tel and joined a newly formed communications consulting engineering company to continue similar radio system designs around the province and Canada.

Since then, I have worked for over 35 years in a variety of radio and land-based communication networks across Canada with most of the Telephone companies. Thus, I have sufficient relative background to comment on this Milestone proposal.

The Trans-Canada Microwave System was a complex engineering project from several perspectives:

1. Length of the radio system: Longest in the world at that time

2. Topographical challenges: The Proposal does not do justice to this part. The 6300 km path across Canada required 139 towers at various spacing, over flat prairie, rolling hills of eastern Canada, and rugged mountains of British Columbia. Finding tower sites with line-of-sight to adjacent sites was extraordinarily difficult. There were no satellite photographs, and available topographical maps were limited in detail. These were amazing achievements by the land surveyors.

3. The Microwave System provided a high-grade large channel capacity which replaced primitive long-distance technology in use at the time, such as multiplexed circuits carried on cables and even on open-wire lines. The new system enabled an order of magnitude improvement in long-distance circuits. The ability to carry television circuits was another great improvement.

4. The name of the Milestone project should be changed to: “Trans-Canada TD2 Microwave System”. It was the use of the AT&T TD-2 equipment that made this project possible. There have since been many Trans-Canada Microwave Systems in subsequent years, but these has only been one “Trans-Canada TD2 Microwave System”.

In conclusion, it is my opinion that the TD2 Trans-Canada Microwave System, as described in this Milestone proposal, fully meets the requirements of being historically significant in technology, science and social benefits.

Respectfully submitted by: Edward Frazer, P. Eng (Retired) SM IEEE

Re: Comments from Ed Frazer, P.Eng. -- Dmichelson (talk) 07:42, 26 November 2021 (UTC)[edit | reply | new]

I have inserted some of Ed's excellent comments into the proposal verbatim. Thanks, Ed!

I have seen the system referred to as the “Trans-Canada TD-2 Microwave System” or “Trans-Canada TD-2 Radio System” in a few contemporary documents and had mentioned the TD2 designation in the proposal but “Trans-Canada Microwave System” is by far the most common name with "Trans-Canada Skyway" a remote second. I'll consult with colleagues at TELUS, SaskTel and Bell, and solicit their opinions regarding whether "TD-2" should find its way onto the plaque.

Re: Re: Comments from Ed Frazer, P.Eng. -- Dmichelson (talk) 17:02, 13 December 2021 (UTC)[edit | reply | new]

Replace this text with your reply

The consensus is that the name "Trans-Canada Microwave System" has been used in virtually every public facing publication or web page concerning the system that has been produced during the past 60+ years and should be used on the Milestone plaque. The "TD-2" designation applies to the equipment used in the system. While TD-2 should be mentioned in the accompanying material on ETHW, it need not be mentioned on the plaque.

Recommend Approval -- John Vardalas (talk) 16:10, 13 December 2021 (UTC)[edit | reply | new]

As the Advocate, I strongly recommend that the Committee approve this Milestone proposal. Not only was the Trans Canada Microwave System a great technical achievement, it also played a profound role in the economic, political, and cultural development of a nation stretched across a vast East-West geography.

Re: Recommend Approval -- Bberg (talk) 18:18, 14 December 2021 (UTC)[edit | reply | new]

Since the last sentence describes the system's later expansion, this is in conflict with the word "completed" in the preceding sentence ("Comprising 139 microwave relay towers spanning more than 6275 kilometres, it was, at time of completion, the longest such network in the world."). I suggest changing that preceding sentence to "Comprising 139 microwave relay towers spanning more than 6275 kilometres, it was the longest such network in the world when operational in 1958." There is no resultant word count change since 4 words are replaced by 4 other words, and the resulting sentence reads more smoothly as well.

Re: Re: Recommend Approval -- Dmichelson (talk) 19:32, 14 December 2021 (UTC)[edit | reply | new]

No, thank you. Many things are described as "completed" when they are ready for operational use despite later being upgraded and expanded.
Re: Re: Re: Recommend Approval -- Amy Bix (talk) 20:14, 15 December 2021 (UTC)[edit | reply | new]

Proposal looks very good to me! I might just suggest a few minor tweaks in the last sentence to sharpen the wording (the vague word "it") and avoid passive voice: Instead of: "Later extended and upgraded, its impact on Canada, its society and its economy was immense." (15 words) how about "Later extended and upgraded, this communications system had an immense impact on Canada's society and economy." (16 words) I might argue for sharpening the last part even more: "Later extended and upgraded, this system revolutionized how Canadians communicated for both business and pleasure, shaping national society and economy." (20 words - I believe word length would allow this change)

I think my only other question is whether there should be a hyphen in "long distance" in sentence one.

Re: Re: Re: Re: Recommend Approval -- Bberg (talk) 01:23, 16 December 2021 (UTC)[edit | reply | new]

Good comments, Amy. While "long distance" is often seen without a hyphen, normal English rules dictate that it needs a hyphen as a multi-word adjective - see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-distance_calling for an example.

Interesting question re: "dialled" v. "dialed" in that same first sentence. I found this site: https://www.future-perfect.co.uk/grammar-tips/just-plain-wrong/is-it-dialled-or-dialed which seems to indicate that "ll" is British English while "l" is American English. As this is a Canadian Milestone, perhaps the British English is most appropriate. I leave it to the Advocate and proposer to comment on this point.

Re: Re: Re: Re: Recommend Approval -- Dmichelson (talk) 19:42, 16 December 2021 (UTC)[edit | reply | new]

Style guides sometimes don't agree with each other, but APA notes the hyphen is only required when there is room for confusion or misunderstanding, e.g., two-parent homes vs. two parent homes. Whereas long distance without the hyphen is the norm in the industry, I'm not inclined to impose something new here.

I've modified the last sentence of the citation to read: "Later extended and upgraded, the system had an immense impact on Canada's society and economy." Thanks, Amy!

For general interest, the following 1-minute video from Historica Canada nicely summarizes the story... (Le Réseau is 'The Network.')

“Le Réseau,” Canadian Heritage Minutes, 1993, https://www.historicacanada.ca/content/heritage-minutes/le-reseau

Joint dedication with Engineering Institute of Canada -- Administrator4 (talk) 13:53, 28 January 2022 (UTC)[edit | reply | new]

Enrique Tejera 8:20 AM (30 minutes ago) to Dave, me, Antonio, Michael

Hi all,

I do agree with Dave's sugestion and plans.

Regards,

Enrique


El vie., 28 ene. 2022 3:34 a. m., Dave Michelson <dmichelson@ieee.org> escribió: Hi Robert,

I’m satisfied that your version

On 1 July 1958, the Trans-Canada Microwave System introduced live network television and direct-dialled long distance telephone service to Canadians from coast to coast. Comprising 139 towers spanning more than 6275 kilometres, it was, when completed, the world's longest such network. Later extended and upgraded, the system had an immense impact on Canada's society and economy. (59 words)

is a minor change that is only designed to slightly reduce the word count in order to satisfy a technical need, not a change to the message or its intention.

I’m also satisfied that because EIC’s own recognition of the Trans-Canada Microwave System was part of the original proposal and they provided a letter of support for our proposal, making this a joint dedication is a very natural outcome. Hopefully Antonio and Enrique will agree.

I’ve since corresponded with EIC President Ali Dolatabadi and Executive Director Guy Gosselin. They are both very supportive and hope that we can make this happen. All agree that making this a joint dedication on Canada Day will reflect very well on both organizations and strengthen the public outreach efforts that we’ll be undertaking.

On Jan 27, 2022, at 11:05, Robert Colburn <r.colburn@ieee.org> wrote:

Hi Dave,

I too think that a joint designation would be a wonderful opportunity. Given the time constraint, the question is whether the new combined citation falls under the permitted category of minor grammatical changes. If so, it would mean we would not need to go back through the approval process. I am copying Enrique Tejera as the BoD Coordinator to the History Committee, as well as Antonio Savini as Chair so that they can give their opinions.

The citation as approved by the Board of Directors is:

              The Trans-Canada Microwave System, 1958

On 1 July 1958, the Trans-Canada Microwave System introduced both live network television and direct-dialled long distance telephone service to Canadians from coast to coast. Comprising 139 microwave relay towers spanning more than 6275 kilometres, it was, at time of completion, the longest such network in the world. Later extended and upgraded, the system had an immense impact on Canada's society and economy.

The citation you are proposing is:

On 1 July 1958, the Trans-Canada Microwave System introduced both live network television and direct-dialled long distance telephone service to Canadians from coast to coast. Comprising 139 towers spanning more than 6275 kilometres, it was, when completed, the longest such network in the world. Later extended and upgraded, the system had an immense impact on society and the economy.

Given that the deletion of the word "Canada's" might be construed as broadening the substance of the claim, I propose a slight modification that would permit "Canada's" to remain, and would thus make the citation (in my opinion) fit under the "minor change" category.

On 1 July 1958, the Trans-Canada Microwave System introduced live network television and direct-dialled long distance telephone service to Canadians from coast to coast. Comprising 139 towers spanning more than 6275 kilometres, it was, when completed, the world's longest such network. Later extended and upgraded, the system had an immense impact on Canada's society and economy. (59 words)

If pinched for words, we could even substitute "it" for "the system" in the last sentence.

Again, it's Antonio's and Enrique's call as to whether they think it is necessary for the citation to go back to the History Committee and BoD to approve the changes. Beyond updating the Milestone proposal page to note that it will be a joint dedication with EIC, and adding the substance of this thread to the discussion page (both of which I can do), I think this would suffice. At some point, I would need the EIC logo and permission for our foundry to cast it on the plaques, but that is an administrative detail.

Best regards, Robert

On Thu, Jan 27, 2022 at 11:59 AM Dave Michelson <dmichelson@ieee.org> wrote: Hi Robert,

I don’t want to muddy the waters, but there’s an opportunity concerning the TCMS milestone that I would at least like to discuss given that the potential value is so high.

I hadn’t previously been aware of the process for joint designation with sister societies.

     http://ieeemilestones.ethw.org/Joint_Designations_Guidelines

As you know, the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC) recognized the TCMS as one of the ten most significant achievements of Canada’s first century of engineering back in 1987 and they supplied a letter of support for the IEEE milestone proposal. However, I hadn’t realized that there was an opportunity to have this Milestone jointly designated with EIC.

Given the nature of the Milestone and the plan to hold the dedication on Canada Day, making it joint with the Engineering Institute of Canada would play very well and encourage very high level participation from the Government of Canada.

We would need to wordsmith the citation down to 60 words or less, but that’s easily done, e.g.,

On 1 July 1958, the Trans-Canada Microwave System introduced both live network television and direct-dialled long distance telephone service to Canadians from coast to coast. Comprising 139 towers spanning more than 6275 kilometres, it was, when completed, the longest such network in the world. Later extended and upgraded, the system had an immense impact on society and the economy.



Is there still an opportunity to modify the proposal to include EIC? Presumably, this would require approval from History Committee next week and BoD in late February.

Just to clarify the relationship between IEEE and EiC: IEEE Canada (R7) is a member of the Engineering Institute of Canada and both Rob Anderson (President of IEEE Canada) and I (as president of CNC-URSI), sit on the EIC Council (Board of Directors). I also serve on the EIC History and Archives Committee. Accordingly, Rob and I are in a good position to do whatever is required on all fronts to prepare for the upcoming History committee meeting if this is an option.

Thanks.

— Dave Michelson dmichelson@ieee.org