My First Day As A Radio Inspector

by Donald Courcy


January 1973 - My first business card as a Radio Inspector

Lyle Bates was in charge of the Sydney District Office when I joined the Department of Communications in January 1973. I couldn't have found a better boss. He was my boss, my guide and my mentor for over a year before he transferred to Halifax. He taught me how to be a good Radio Inspector.


I still remember my first day at work, Tuesday 29 January 1973. After being discharged from the Canadian Navy the week before, I had moved from Halifax to Sydney with my wife Delcie and we were now looking forward to a new life on Cape Breton Island. So it was with great expectations and also some anxiety that I reported to the Sydney District Office on that cold Tuesday morning. I was greeted by Ron MacDonald, the office clerk, and Lyle came out of his office to shake my hand. "Welcome to Cape Breton" he said, " We have a special investigation today, so let's go ! ". After only 10 minutes in the office, Lyle and I were on our way to Little Bras D'Or to investigate a case of interference in the AM radio band.


The complainant was a paraplegic in a wheel chair who spent his entire day listening to stations in the shortwave radio bands as well as far way stations in the AM radio band. Every 20 minutes or so, a burst of noise lasting less than 2 seconds would interfere with his radio reception. Lyle had already investigated the problem before and had located the source as coming from the complainant's house but the complainant had rejected Lyle's findings, had refused entry to the house for further tests and had filed a complaint with the Minister of Communications. The case was now a special investigation.


Lyle and I arrived on site that morning and parked a few hydro poles away from the house. A radio with disabled AGC was tuned to the affected radio band and we waited for the first burst of interference. It came within 20 minutes of arrival and lasted between 1 and 2 seconds. We stayed at the same location for at least two hours and gradually went up in frequency each time the burst came on. The purpose was to go up in frequency as much as possible without loosing the interference signal. I learned that day that the higher you can go in frequency while still getting the interference, the easier it will be to locate the source of the interference using the intensity method.


Once we had reached the highest frequency affected by the interference, we began moving toward the house, stopping at each hydro pole, waiting for the next burst and measuring its intensity. Once we reached the house, we continued for a distance past the house, again stopping at each hydro pole and taking measurements every 20 minutes or so. This long process took most of the day and by late afternoon, we had the results which confirmed without a doubt that the source of interference was located in the complainant's house. This long process was necessary because a detailed report of the investigation would have to be sent to Headquarters in Ottawa.


Now came the delicate part requiring the special skills of a Radio Inspector: convincing the complainant that we were right and getting his cooperation to perform switching tests within his own house. Lyle was good at this and I learned a lot on that day, watching him in action.


We finally got the OK to enter the house with a portable radio receiver. Standing by the electrical panel, we turned off circuits each time the burst signal came on. We quickly determined that the source was located in the kitchen. Further testing revealed that a defective thermostat in the fridge was causing the interference. The complainant finally accepted our findings and the special investigation was resolved.


As we drove back to Sydney, I reviewed in my mind what had happened during the day. I had experienced for the first time the detective part of a Radio Inspector's job, and I liked it a lot. I knew right away that I would love this new job.


This is what happened on Tuesday 29 January 1973 on Cape Breton Island...my first day with Lyle Bates and my first day as a Radio Inspector.


Donald Courcy

24 August 2010


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