Talk:Bell-Northern Research

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The history reads as if the world went directly from step (or at least crossbar) directly to digital. The 1A ESS deserves a significant discussion (there's a Wikipedia stub for ESS, but no history of the Bell Labs/WeCo product) as an intermediary. The article cites the SP-1, but not its predessor, the 1ESS.

BNR got into the next-gen switching world when it first became feasible to digitize voice samples and thereby treat the data plane as a digital machine as well as the control plane, and to a lesser extent, the signalling plane, which had already been pioneered by others.

I would write this up myself, but I don't know the dates and details of the No. 1 ESS. It would be very helpful if someone who does know this would add a brief discussion here and perhaps expand it in a separate article.

Davehood 01:35, 8 March 2007 (UTC)

I joined Northern Electric in 1965 - working on ESS #1 in Montreal. My impression at the time was with the deregulation of the US teleco's - the Canadian Telcos got access to the design specs for the Ess #1.... and were trying to manufacture them. I remember going through some of this documentation. I was working on a Cobol programming team trying to design the software that would validate subscriber data (input) and output instructions for manufacturing. The memory of the ESS #1 was large aluminum backplanes - to which magnets were glued - a row of magnets forming a single "word" of data.... really!

A year later - about 1966, I volunteered to transfer to the R&D Labs in Ottawa to start real time programming for the first SP-1, whose development was underway.

I don't know if this helps with the time lines. I do have a Nortel history around somewhere.. I will look for it. Hugh Chatfield (talk) 05:08, 12 February 2008 (UTC)

Am I the only person at Wikipedia who sees a danger in the "no original research" policy? I just came here from another Wikipedia page where I explained my thoughts in this regard I expect no one will read this for a while - but hopefully someone will discover it before it becomes an archaeological artefact :-) btw hi to Hugh if he is still around? Ottawahitech (talk) 01:32, 14 December 2009 (UTC)


Edward G. Nilges spinoza1111 added information based on employment at BNR 1981-1986Spinoza1111 09:56, 31 July 2005 (UTC)

Love the old rune, "build it stroong, build it stoot, oot of things ye know aboot", for it reminds me of the old (pre-1984) Canadian BNR. It seems to have been replaced by "borrow money from your honey, and send it oot of the hoose for assembly".Spinoza1111 10:09, 31 July 2005 (UTC)

Speculative and inappropriate statements[edit]

The sentence in the first paragraph on BNR losing its innovative and successful organization after being absorbed into Nortel is speculative. The statement about John Roth perceiving the use of proprietary technology as being part of "the problem" isn't really true, to my recollection. RISC and CISC technology doesn't play a role in the overall layering of the architecture (it is only at the microprocessor level, and the distinction pretty much went away during the 1990s), and in fact the traditional DMS product software loads underwent evolutionary changes that increased their layering, in order to improve maintainability. 04:35, 5 November 2006 (UTC)It's not speculative. What the hell is this, The Great or Bolshoi Soviet Encyclopedia? I'm talking about what happened to people. Shall they be erased in the name of the "scholarship" of Nortel moles, religious lunatics and convenience store clerks, destroying Wikipedia? 04:35, 5 November 2006 (UTC)Note that "RISC and CISC technology doesn't play a role in the overall layering of the architecture (it is only at the microprocessor level, and the distinction pretty much went away during the 1990s), and in fact the traditional DMS product software loads underwent evolutionary changes that increased their layering, in order to improve maintainability." is negative, therefore proof against discussion or refutation by design, and poorly written in corporate-obfuscate style. 04:35, 5 November 2006 (UTC)If you believe that "RISC and CISC technology doesn't play a role in the overall layering of the architecture", you're a tech too narrow to see the ideological and technical war that was declared on layering by the RISC kiddies.

The next to last sentence in the article mentions outsourcing for the first time, which doesn't really match the previous sentence talking about BNR being absorbed into Nortel (although there may be common underlying causes, one doesn't directly imply the other). I propose removing this sentence, since this part of the story is not part of the history of BNR, but instead that of Nortel. 04:35, 5 November 2006 (UTC)This is nonsense. BNR was reabsorbed into Nortel because Roth's strategy was completely opposed to inhouse development. I was there, and I heard the vile things that were said to people who developed in house or insisted on anything but a shoddy job, but clearly, here, a Nortel mole is proposing this ugly history and its victims, now in some cases part of the long term unemployed as a result of what Nortel did to them, be erased like Stalinist purge victims...along with the financial manipulation that occured at the same time, and which destroyed Nortel and its shareholder's value. 04:35, 5 November 2006 (UTC)Clearly Wikipedia has become the tool of corporate moles, religious lunatics and underinformed convenience store clerks.

When BCE gave up control of Nortel, Nortel assumed majority ownership of BNR, and once BCE divested itself of Nortel, Nortel took over complete ownership. The majority of BNR's work in the 1990s was for Nortel, and as BCE pursued its convergence strategy, it was increasing its R&D in other business units, so it was sensible from Bell Canada's point of view to dissolve its joint R&D partnership.

Nortel still uses "proprietary technology", for its DMS switches at least, and I suspect that's something that kept BNR in the telecom game in the first place. It also meant BNR had to have smart people working for them, which is always a good thing for the company as well as smart people who would otherwise be stuck in boring jobs. Nevertheless, it was quite clear to me and co-workers that BNR lost effectiveness rapidly when it became Nortel. Nortel , being concerned with counting beans, never understood or valued BNR's organization, which was concerned with solving our customers' problems and one-upping AT&T and DSC. Washi (talk) 21:00, 6 May 2008 (UTC)

Recall digital switches were first developed at the birth of the modern computer industry, and so companies such as AT&T and BNR pretty much had to develop their own proprietary equipment. The latest incarnation of DMS can run on industry standard compact PCI and ATCA platforms. The remaining proprietary platform for new DMS installations is a multiple-CPU (PowerPC) platform, designed to run the legacy DMS software base with as few changes as possible and yet realize the benefit of multiple processors. It was a very innovative project that was developed by Nortel after it had fully integrated BNR's organization (for Nortel R&D). Its industry-leading optical long haul work that was so profitable with the rise of the Internet was also done as BNR became more and more integrated with Nortel throughout the 1990s. Isaac Lin (talk) 17:19, 9 May 2008 (UTC)


As a co-op student at BNR in 1990, I often heard the place referred to as the "Big Nerd Ranch".

As a software designer there in the mid 90s, I heard this term too, to my amusement. Now I only remember it with melancholy. Washi (talk) 20:51, 6 May 2008 (UTC)

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