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The 1980s, the digital era reached a new level in the 1980s as Bell celebrated its 100th year

The digital era reached a new level in the 1980s as Bell celebrated its 100th year. Building on the first fibre optic tests in the late 1970s, the 1980s was a decade that saw many innovative projects take shape, including the expansion of digital radio systems across the country, along with digital switching and the modernization of our long distance network. Bell also took our first steps into Canada’s satellite communications system while consolidating our terrestrial communications, making it possible to expand into more remote areas.

Following a CRTC decision that enabled customers to buy telephones in any retail store and connect to our network, advertising campaigns encouraged subscribers to choose modern and technologically advanced telephones and answering machines from Bell.

Ads from the era also aimed to convince customers to switch from their old dial phones to a touch-tone telephone like the Bell-exclusive Harmony telephone, a light, compact, electronic phone with custom-calling features that was available in a variety of colours. Designed by Bell’s Advertising team, the retail store display in the photo below travelled to various shopping centres to encourage rotary phone users to switch to our Touch-tone and custom-calling services.

Another key focus of Bell advertising campaigns of the period was long distance dialing. The overall goal of these campaigns was to convince the public of the value of connecting with loved ones who may be far away. “We know from our research it’s the emotional rewards that make people call.” said Phyllis Grant, a former Section Manager of Advertising and Promotion at Bell.

The 1980s was also a time of rapid advancement in computer technology. In the business market, Bell tried to position ourselves as the leading single-source supplier of Intelligent Communications and Data transmission services with next-generation products like the Envoy 100, DataForce and Datalink, to enhance business productivity.

Bell also began to offer business owners innovative new products like the Displayphone to help manage increasing volume of voice, text, graphics and image information.  Launched in 1981, the Displayphone was the first single desktop voice and data terminal offered by Bell.