BELL-34452 | Bellboy wireless paging system, 1962

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Bellboy wireless paging system, 1962
1962, 20th century
Bell Canada Historical Collection
This artefact belongs to: © Bell Canada
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Keys to History

The Future of Telecommunications

In the latter half of the 20th century, wireless telephony turned communications upside-down by providing caller mobility. In the age of personal communications, phones are no longer connected to places, but, in a way, to individuals. Many telephone-related products are part of mobile communications technologies: radiotelephones, pagers, cell phones, personal communications services (PCS), notepad computers, etc.

The first radio and mobile phone trials took place in the U.S. in the early 1920s. In 1947 Bell Canada offered mobile radiotelephones in Montreal and Toronto, but they were only used by emergency services and a few types of professionals, such as sales representatives and journalists. Launched in Canada in 1962, the Bellboy paging system made wireless terminals available to the general public. In July 1985, Bell Canada launched its cellular telephone service.

Today, with the convergence of the Internet and mobile phone systems, computers have also become roaming terminals used to access all sorts of data. There's no need for wires anymore to access voice, music, text, photos or even movies.

  • What

    Developed by Bell Labs in the United States, the Bellboy pager is a terminal that notifies the subscriber when someone is trying to call him or her. The person receives an audible signal on the pager and calls a service centre, which passes on the caller's message. This was one of the first products to use the transistor, which was also invented at Bell Labs, in 1947.

  • Where

    The Bellboy was small enough to be carried in a jacket or coat pocket.

  • When

    The Bellboy paging system was presented at the 1962 World's Fair held in Seattle, also known as the Century 21 Exposition.. It was one of a range of avant-garde technologies unveiled there, including the supersonic plane, push-button telephone and cordless telephone.

  • Who

    Even though Canadians have powerful, affordable mobile phone networks, we have nothing on Europeans. In 2002 Canada had a lower penetration rate - 35 percent - than Italy (91 percent), Finland (83 percent), Sweden (82 percent), Great Britain (80 percent), Spain (78 percent) and France (62 percent).