The Epistle of Q — Chapter 155

Oh no, I am sad…
This will be a short note as it’s Labour Day and one is supposed to celebrate labour and instead I am bemoaning a loss…

Canada is once again losing a technological innovation and masterpiece… when I wore a younger man’s clothes there was a group of high tech geniuses who invented a really good computer. It had a sharp design and it suggested a great future for the computer industry in Canada. However, like the Avro Arrow it needed some government investment to get it really flying – to get ahead of Compac and the like. Alas our federal government at the time did not think computers were a big deal and certainly not a Canadian made one. And so Hyperion died a painful death. Soon the Apple&Mac and the ThinkPad took root and Canada never again played a major role (just like in the case of the Arrow!!).

Then came computer programming and the rise of a variety of various word processing programs. As the industry began to shake out Canada had Corel (& WordPerfect) while the USA had Microsoft (& Word). Once again the federal government had the chance to make a major statement, perhaps not on the world stage, but even there I’m not so sure there wouldn’t have been some significant influence. The government had to decide which operating platform it would use. Now, I’m biased because WordPerfect is so much simpler and straightforward. Nevertheless if the government had chosen Corel (which had a full suite of programs and a much superior Corel Draw component) then it would have instantly given Corel a major client which no doubt would have influenced the provinces and municipalities across the land. AND, Microsoft would have had some decent competition. But for reasons never understood by me and most of my colleagues at the time, it chose the American option. Corel now is a quiet subsidiary of Microsoft and again Canada is out of the picture.

Last week I got word that BlackBerry is leaving the phone business. It will cease supporting any of its phone-related operating systems. Oh, the company is continuing (especially in autonomous vehicles and the like) but after three decades the famous BlackBerry symbol will disappear from the phone market. Again I lay the blame primarily on the feds again. Why? Because a few years back some civil servants wanted more modern phones in the sense they didn’t like the fact BB had few apps created for it. I was dumbfounded that civil servants needed apps for their government phones. I thought these devices were for communicating with each other and with the public. BB had by far the best security systems and that’s why I, as well as most of my colleagues, used them. Had the feds stuck to the program and kept BB as it’s primary phone system it just might have inspired more programmers to eventually develop some additional apps for the rest of us to use. Instead, the servants got to have their I-phones and Androids and now Canada is again on the sidelines…

Perhaps these don’t strike you as big deals, but maybe that’s our problem. We elect leaders that really don’t see a very big picture. For example: why didn’t the feds, when they bought all those General Motors shares, actually add a rider that should GM decide to shutter the Oshawa plant, it would become federal property along with the rights to at least one line of GM products? Had that been done we could have converted the plant over to producing Canada’s own Chevy Volts (renamed the Canuck Voltage), a plug-in hybrid model (PHEV), and made it a staple in the government’s push for more electrified vehicles. Eventually the crown corporation could have been spun off (aka Petro-Can and Air Canada) and it could have made as well PHEV pick-up trucks, vans & SUV’s. Or, claim an operational share of Bombardier when it made its ill-fated move into the C-Series – it could have then partnered with other Canadian aerospace companies to keep that jetliner fully Canadian. There might even have been an option to create a military transport version.

All I am saying on this Labour Day is that we really don’t do a good job of keeping and enhancing high-tech jobs in Canada. We don’t seem to have the vision to get anywhere near the front of the parade – in fact, sometimes it seems we just want to watch the parade!

Enough reflection for today. Enjoy your week.
As always,