• Telephone operators connect long distance calls in one of Canada's busiest switchboards in the 1950's.

There are about 29 million cellphone subscribers in Canada today. When Canadian Geographical Journal ran the story, “Telephone Service Across Canada” in its January 1956 issue, there weren’t even that many people in the country.

The article, written by Michael Sheldon is an account of the post-war explosion of telecommunications via landlines across the country. “Today, there are over 2,500 separate telephone systems in Canada,” writes Sheldon. “Their 4,000,000 million telephones share a nationwide network of cooperation.” At the time, telephone service required operators at switchboards to connect each caller to their recipient, a far cry from today’s wireless cellphone signals and the network of approximately 13,000 antenna towers connecting callers.

Sheldon delves into the telephone’s Canadian roots, recounting Alexander Graham Bell’s first successful long distance call from his home in Brantford, Ont. to the nearby community of Paris on August 1876. He goes on to describe the technology behind “modern” telephone networks, the challenges of meeting a booming demand and creating a continent-wide network.

“These limited networks are only the foundations of a continentwide system,” he writes, “which before long will allow long distance operators to dial calls direct to practically any telephone in Canada and the United States.”