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The Evolution and Impact of Northern Electric: A Canadian Leader in Telecommunications and Military

Alexander Bell's impact on the world of communication cannot be overstated. His invention of the telephone revolutionized the way people connected with each other, allowing for quick and easy communication over long distances. In 1877, Bell officially founded the Bell Telephone Company in the United States, and three years later, the company established a branch in Montreal, Canada called Bell Canada.


Bell Canada's mechanical department was established in 1882 with only three employees. However, as the company's business continued to grow, the department's scale also increased. Finally, on December 7, 1895, the department became an independent entity known as the Northern Electric and Manufacturing Company.


The Bell Telephone Company, and later Bell Canada and the Northern Electric and Manufacturing Company, played a crucial role in the development and advancement of telephone technology. Thanks to Alexander Bell's innovative ideas and the hard work of the employees at these companies, we are able to enjoy the convenience of phone communication today.


By 1902, the Northern Electric and Manufacturing Company had grown significantly, employing 250 people and occupying over 4,000 square meters of space. In 1914, the company merged with Imperial Wire and Cable, a subsidiary of Bell Canada, to become Northern Electric Co. Ltd.


This new company was mainly owned by Bell Canada and Western Electric, with each holding 50% and 44% of the shares respectively. It is worth noting that both Bell Canada and Western Electric were actually owned by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T). Western Electric acted as AT&T's manufacturing plant in the United States, while Bell Canada was the Canadian branch of AT&T. Northern Electric, therefore, was the Canadian branch of Western Electric.

During this time, Northern Electric had very limited independent research and development capabilities and relied on technology authorization from Western Electric for production. In addition to telephone switching equipment, the company also produced various consumer electronic products, such as phonographs, televisions, amplifiers, and stereos.


When World War I began in 1915, Northern Electric expanded its operations to include the production of military communication equipment, such as portable switchboards and field communication phones. The company also began manufacturing artillery shells for the war effort.


Following the end of World War I, Northern Electric continued to expand, with offices located throughout Canada. The company not only produced various wireless transmitters and broadcasting equipment but also introduced Canada's first vacuum tube and the first sound film system.


Unfortunately, the Great Depression hit and Northern Electric saw a significant decline in performance, leading to the layoff of two-thirds of its employees.


When Canada officially entered World War II in 1939, Northern Electric once again focused on serving the military industry. Their main products during this time included radios, radars, and fuzes.

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