Operator. May I help you?: Bell Canada's 125 Years

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MP-0000.888.11 MP-1978.207.1.40 M975.62.561 M996.10.460 BELL-24060 VIEW-15469 M996.21.1 BELL-34452 Conclusion


For over 125 years, the development of telecommunications systems has helped revolutionize Canadian society. Yet until the 1930s, only a select few were connected to the telephone system. Only the wealthiest households and businesses subscribed to the service. The telephone remained a luxury that many Canadians had to do without. In the latter half of the 20th century, a combination of technical improvements, technology convergence and lower charges made service more accessible.

Setting up telecommunications networks across the country was a complex feat involving many players. Among them were inventors and scientists who made technological innovations, businesses that planned systems and made use of new technologies, workers who built the systems and kept them operating, public officials who oversaw the services offered and consumers who adopted the new communications devices.

Telecommunications companies are an economic force in Canada now more than ever. With continuing technological advances, there are bound to be further upheavals.

Selective Bibliography

Armstrong, Christopher, and H. V. Nelles. Monopoly's Moment: The Organization and Regulation of Canadian Utilities, 1830-1930. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988, 393 p.

Fischer, Claude S. America Calling: A Social History of the Telephone to 1940. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992, 424 p.

Martin, Michèle. Hello Central?: Gender, Technology, and Culture in the Formation of Telephone Systems. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1991, 219 p.

Ogle, E. B. Long Distance Please: The Story of the Trans Canada Telephone System. Toronto: Collins, 1979, 300 p.

Pike, Robert M. "Kingston Adopts the Telephone: The Social Diffusion of the Telephone in Urban Central Canada, 1976-1914", Urban History Review/Revue d'histoire urbaine 18, no. 1 (1989): 32-47.

Poitras, Claire. La cité au bout du fil (Le téléphone à Montréal de 1879 à 1930). Montreal: Presses de l'Université de Montréal, 2000, 323 p.

Rens, Jean-Guy. The Invisible Empire: A History of the Telecommunications Industry in Canada, vol. 1, 1846-1956, trans. Käthe Roth (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001), 320 p., and vol. 2 (forthcoming).


Bell Canada Enterprises. "History of Innovation: The History of Bell"

CBC Archives. "Canada Says Hello: The First Century of the Telephone"

PBS. "The American Experience: The Telephone"

Radio-Canada Archives. "Le téléphone, d'un combiné à l'autre"