CANADIAN EPICS IN RADIOCOMMUNICATION
ALUMNI WHO LIVED THE ADVENTURE OF RADIO
WIRELESS TELEGRAPHISTS - SPARKS - RADIO PIONEERS
RADIO OPERATORS - RADIO TECHNICIANS
RADIO TECHNOLOGISTS - RADIO ENGINEERS
RADIO INSPECTORS - SPECTRUM MANAGERS
ÉPOPÉES CANADIENNES EN RADIOCOMMUNICATION
LES ANCIENS QUI ONT VÉCU L'AVENTURE DE LA RADIO
TÉLÉGRAPHISTES SANS FIL - PIONNIERS DE LA RADIO
OPÉRATEURS RADIO - TECHNICIENS RADIO
TECHNOLOGUES RADIO - INGÉNIEURS RADIO
INSPECTEURS RADIO - GESTIONNAIRES DU SPECTRE
Bill Wilson was an important contributor to the RadiocomHistory.ca website
Bill Wilson a beaucoup contribué au site web historique RadiocomHistory.ca
is with great sadness that we announce the sudden death of Bill at his residence
Wednesday January 27, 2010, age 88.
A Farewell to Bill Wilson, VE3NR
1 February 2010
Bill Wilson used to say that there were two things you need to understand to manage the radio frequencies. The first was Ohm's Law (E=IR). The work must be technically sound. The second was that you can’t push a rope. His early career with the government dealt largely with engineering and technical matters, but Bill, thinking ahead, would have already been crafting his unique way of getting things done - without pushing.
Bill started in the Marine Radio Service. When he joined the Government, in 1947, the senior officers in the Department were old enough to remember the original Wireless Telegraphy Act which was passed in 1905. His father, Norman Wilson, had been Director of Marine Services, responsible, among other things, for the regulation of ships and shipping. Bill’s seven years in Marine Radio, along with his father’s experience, gave him a comprehensive knowledge of Canada’s maritime environment. Much later he was able to advise Michael Christie when he wrote his book on The Barrington Passage Coast Station.
Bill was the engineer responsible for solving a problem of interference from the power lines from Niagara which were disrupting the important coast station Toronto, VBG. His solution, to move the station to Trafalgar, Ontario, was completed in 1952 just as he was transferring to the Radio Regulations Division. The timing of his move to Radio Regulations was impeccable. Television broadcasting had begun in Canada in September 1952. More importantly, the government had just dropped the arduous requirement that people had to have a radio licence to receive broadcasting. No longer did the officers of the department have to fan out across the country to catch and prosecute those who did not have licences. Bill, with his constructive, positive view of service to the public, was in the right place.
Initially Bill dealt with the engineering aspects of the use of radio in Canada. Over the next twenty years many of the fundamental radio regulations and agreements that form the basis of our electronic world today were set in place. These involved agreements with the United States and other countries, and Bill became increasingly involved in international relations. He was particularly proud of the Canada/United States Frequency Coordination meeting held in Washington in 1962. For many years he represented Canada on the Administrative Council of the International Telecommunication Union, assuming the Chair of Council in the late 60s. Years later the Secretary General of the ITU, Richard Butler, told me that Bill’s affable leadership style was perfect for the difficult task of Council chair. Representatives of other countries found Bill invariably pleasant and polite, easy to approach and skilled at solving complex problems. Bill’s objective was to reach agreement and avoid situations which could lead to a vote, with its inevitable winners and losers. His philosophy, honed in the domestic radio regulations world, was to avoid using the heavy handed powers that he had been given.
In 1968, at age 46, he replaced Bill Caton as Chief of the Radio Regulations Division. A couple of years ago the late Ted Rogers in his acceptance speech into the Telecommunications Hall of Fame, specifically mentioned the contribution of Bill Caton and his staff, of which Bill was key member, in creating the dynamic communications environment that Canadians enjoy today.
Bill rounded out his career in the Department of Communications as Director-General of the Telecommunications Regulation Branch, but he left one last and important legacy. Until around 1970 the allocation and sharing of the spectrum was a technical matter. Disputes could usually be handled by the users themselves through groups such as the Canadian Radio Technical Planning Board (CRTPB). Bill saw most clearly that this model was breaking down. He was the first person I heard using the term “Spectrum – a scarce, natural resource”. He recommended the creation of a special group, the Directorate of Spectrum Utilization to develop strategies for the use of the spectrum in Canada. Before then no-one thought of the spectrum as having value, nowadays blocks of spectrum are auctioned for millions of dollars. Bill based the work of the Directorate of Spectrum Utilization, later known as DSRS on two pillars. One was public consultation. The other was that controls on the spectrum should be minimal – it is important not to inhibit technological innovation
After his retirement Bill worked actively in the Canadian Amateur Radio Federation (CARF) and became its President. Earle Smith comments that many consider Bill the father of organized amateur radio in Canada. In 1994 Bill wrote the Code of Ethics for radio amateurs in Canada grouped under four headings: Responsible, Progressive, Helpful and Public Spirited - a good summary of Bill’s own ethics.
Some fifteen years ago Gerry Perrin, Raymond Marchand, Bill Wilson and others began the “First-Thursday” lunch group. A group of retirees with radio regulations and ITU experience it became a “safe haven” where we can share the old stories, seek advice and keep track of old friends.
Over the past few years Bill has written many articles about the history of radio regulations in Canada and these have been given a special place on the “Spectralumni” web site.
I had been researching the WWI experience of my grandfather and Bill shared with me the diary and maps left by his father, Norman Wilson. An engineer, Mr. Wilson had served with the Canadian Army at Vimy and worked on the famous Vimy tunnels. In the early 70’s, as we were flying in a seaplane from Vancouver to Victoria, Bill told me the story of his father’s role in the removal of Ripple Rock, a navigational hazard in the passage between Vancouver Island and the mainland – a classic Canadian story. Mr Wilson had applied the experience he had gained at Vimy in solving the Ripple Rock problem. Our research led to many requests to Beth for searches in the holdings of the Mississauga Public Library.
Late in 2006 Bill learned that his granddaughter, Kimberley Wilson, had been selected to attend the rededication ceremony, on 9 April 2007, of the restored memorial at Vimy. The ceremony commemorated the 90th anniversary of the battle. Bill was hugely proud of Kimberley’s selection and of the continuing family connection with the place where Canada came of age.
Messages from Bill’s colleagues have stressed his role as mentor, friend, gentleman, engineer and public servant. One simple comment from a lunch-group member says it all: Bill, we will miss your welcoming smile.
God bless you Bill.
Links - Liens
Other contributions to this historical site
from William J. ( Bill ) Wilson