The National Research Council Official Time Signal

How many fellow CBC Radio listeners can recite the following on command:

“The National Research Council Official Time Signal. The beginning of the long dash following ten seconds of silence indicates exactly 1 o’clock Eastern Standard Time. Beep Beep Beep … Beeeeeeeeeeep” Then the News
In addition to the intro question, I have a ton of others:

  1. who, besides CBC Radio uses this time signal? When I first started hearing the above as a kid I imagined a bunch of scientists across the country breathlessly huddled around their radios, time devices in hand, to ensure sciencey synchronicity.

  2. Before internet time syncs did any devices connect directly to the NRC and its signal? Did the tone frequency of the beeps matter to these devices? How did they connect? Is the Official Time Signal broadcast via any other media?

  3. What is that signal doing between CBC broadcasts? Does it beep at the top of every hour?

  4. What happened to the ten seconds of silence? I don’t have the modified script memorized, but if you tune in just before 1 o’clock now, the announcer doesn’t mention the silence. If you listen closely, there are now clicks in that ten seconds of otherwise silence. Why the change?

  5. The wikipedia article appears out of date (doesn’t reference the clicks, says it’s a local talent that does the announcement). I remember recently the guy who did the announcement retired. Who was that guy? I think it was the same guy everyone in Canada heard - I certainly recall hearing his voice wherever I’ve lived (though faulty memory is certainly possible). Assuming he was a CBC employee, he must have done other shows, but I never recall hearing his voice anywhere else. I like it - it was very grandfatherly, though the new young kid doing it now sounds friendly too.

  6. Who is the new guy? Is he the same guy who does the between-programme announcements of other programmes? Kinda sounds like it (“Canada lives here”)

Re 6: Someone on radio called him promo-guy. I call him the guy who ate CBC radio. I think his actual function is to have a sufficiently unpleasant voice to drive listeners away so that Harper can shut down CBC. Officially, their reason for programming that varies all over the lot from classical to heavy metal is to serve everyone, but almost everyone has a choice of some station that serves them. In fact, listenership has declined and I believe that is the purpose of the changes.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the CBC runs the time signal because it’s told to in the 1937 regulations forming the network.

Farmers without electricity in the wastes of the Prairie provinces would breathlessly await the signal that they picked up on battery sets so they’d know when to feed the chickens.

I use it to set the time on the car radio because it’s a POS that gains three seconds every time I push the buttons to change the tone. So I have a direct link to chickens two provinces over and 75 years in the past.

Technology. Gotta love it.

Please accept my apologies for this USA-centric response:

The US Naval Observatory in Arlington Virginia began sending out these sort of time signals in the 1870’s by telegraph. Over the decades, they’ve also done radio, telephone, internet, and probably other means as well. More info on Wikipedia here.

These time signals were a major plot point in a 1958 episode of “The Adventures of Superman”, titled “The Mysterious Cube”. In that episode, a criminal was hiding out for seven years, at which point he would be legally dead and free from prosecution. Unknown to that criminal, Superman arranged for Arlington to send its time signals early, fooling that criminal into emerging a few minutes before the seven years were actually over, and the police were able to arrest him.

Hmmm, I hear a similar thing when I get BBC World News on NPR late at night. Beep Beep Beep…[pause ranging from nearly nothing to a couple seconds]…Beeeeeeeep. I wonder if the BBC signal is also used to start the broadcast off at exactly O’Clock.

I’ve not seen that, but I find your description nostalgically thrilling! Reminds me of the days when we would count the number of shots to know whether the bad guy has run out of bullets, how how the super sleuth foiled the baddie by rubbing a pencil over the blank page of a notebook to discover the secret message he wrote on the page above now torn out. There’s something, I don’t know, “real” about these - compared to all of the complexery of CSI, etc.

telecommunications networks send synchronizing signals so that elements of the network will work correctly. the signal has to be unique, the preceding silence helps the signal processing be accurate.

Four time signal facts:

  1. It used to be called the Dominion Observatory time signal.
  2. It is the longest running radio program in Canada, having run since 1939.
  3. CBC used to broadcast single beeps every hour, but they’ve since stopped.
  4. Another well-known institution that uses the NRC time signal is the clock on the Peace Tower.

I’m not doubting you, but do the chickens really need to be fed at a precise time, and can’t any self-respecting farmer tell the time down to the split second, by looking at the sun? :slight_smile:

Some farmers used crystal sets in the barnyard because batteries were too heavy for the chickens to haul around while attached to the headphones they were taught to wear.

When the beep sounded, all the chickens across the country would bend their necks as one and eat lunch.

Co-ordinated Chicken Time was a top-secret national endeavour; Canada didn’t want the Axis powers to get wind of it, so the government spread the fallacy that it was simply a time signal.

Yes and yes, but you’d be surprised at how many farmers don’t have any self-respect.

Brought in by the Co-ordinated Chicken Federation, which later changed its name to the New Domesticated Poultry.

Yeah, thanks to William Aberhart reneging on his utopia of a chicken in every pot, thereby killing the embryonic Co-ordinated Chicken Time and leaving thousands of half-starved chickens in the dust sans headphones.