Canadian innovations in communications

Canadian innovations in communications

While researching this blog, I entered 104 search queries into Google. None of those bursts of curiosity might have been answered if it weren’t for a Canadian innovation.

Archie, the (Canadian) grandfather of search engines

Given Google’s ubiquity, it’s easy to forget that that we once lived in a world without search engines. But before the first website was even created, there was Archie (shortened from Archive)—the first search engine to ever crawl the Internet. Developed in 1990 by students at McGill University, Archie was created in response to the need to locate files on a network.

Before Archie, the only way to find a file was to figure out its location through word-of-mouth…imagine that! Sure, Archie may have taken a couple hours to answer a query, but there’s no doubt that this Canadian innovation paved the way for today’s instant-information Internet.

Much of the success of the world’s booming Information Technology, Communications and Entertainment (ICE) Technology industry is owed to Canadian innovations from our past.

Communication innovation: the telephone and Jigsee

A blog about Canadian communication innovation would be incomplete without a shout-out to Alexander Graham Bell. In 1876, he introduced our world to what is now one of the most commonly used forms of communication: the telephone. Interestingly, Bell’s mother and wife were both deaf—he felt physically disconnected from them, the same kind of disconnection that he felt from other people around the world. His solution: connect people to people with the telephone.

Bell’s invention is mind-blowing when you consider the evolution of telephony. Today’s people are connected to each other, but they are also connected to information and entertainment at the touch of a button.

In 2004, I traveled in a houseboat though the backwaters of Alleppey, Kerala, to a rural area of India where Internet connectivity and access to information technology are rare. Jigsee, developed by Canada’s Ray Newal, is an application that allows common mobile phones to receive long and live video streams in places such as Alleppey.

Ray Newal, CEO of Jigsee

With Jigsee’s help, anyone with a cellphone can watch the latest Bollywood movie or World Cup Cricket match. My hope is that rural Indians will soon be connected to health, education and agricultural information. Businesses would prosper and long-term economic sustainability would be in sight.

The paper that started the fire

I recently came across a presentation called “Newspaper extinction timeline” and to be honest, it shocked me. The timeline suggests that by 2020, print newspapers will be extinct in the U.S. and Canada. This makes sense, especially given the acceleration of digital communication technology in the wireless (and now paperless) era, and I do believe this is a leap forward in the direction of a greener planet. But I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Charles Fenerty, the inventor of newsprint.

By introducing this cheap wood pulp paper to Halifax’s most popular newspaper, the Acadian Recorder, in 1844, he granted many people access to vast dimensions of information by making it more affordable. To put it simply, his innovation allowed more people to become more aware. You could even say that newsprint started the fire.

It’s a small world after all

Connecting people, information and entertainment have historically been difficult and complicated. For over a century, Canadian ICE innovations have shrunk the distance between curiosity and information and have helped make communication both instant and simple. Today, our contributions simultaneously build and shrink our global community—and there’s no sign that we’re slowing down.