O (Geeky) Canada! The Great White North's Contributions To Tech

Though it may not be a well-known date worldwide, July 1st is Canada Day!

While technically speaking July 1st marks the 1867 signing of the British North America Act – which made Canada an independent country – it’s now an excuse to celebrate all things Canadian.

So what’s to celebrate about Canada? Well, to a lot of people, it means hockey, snow, moose and other Canadian stereotypes. But in actuality, in 2010 what it also means is multiculturalism, health care, liberal pot laws, teh gayz gettin’ hitched – and a history of cool tech.

Here are just a few of the many things Canada has given the world of technology:

 

The Blackberry

That’s right, folks. The ubiquitous smartphone with its superb keyboard and bulletproof corporate security–that’s so addictive people call it the Crackberry–is from Canada. Research in Motion in Waterloo, Ontario to be precise, (the University of Waterloo, by the way, also just accepted a visiting stint from Stephen Hawking). It was there that the Blackberry developed from an email-only device with a wheel on the side to a multi-function smartphone that has now sold over a hundred million units.

And if the boastful comments of the Blackberry CEO Jim Balsillie – who said that the next iteration of the Blackberry represents ‘a quantum leapfrog‘ – then we’ll likely be seeing a lot of more of these Canuck inventions around.

 

Awesome Video Games

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Though it may be a little-known fact outside the gaming world, Canada is actually a powerhouse in the world of video game development. Not only do Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, THQ, Rockstar and others have significant bases in Canada, there’s also a massive indie gaming scene in Toronto, Montreal and elsewhere.

And it isn’t just small games that are made here – Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect, Bioshock 2, FIFA, SOCOM, SSX, Prince of Persia, Splinter Cell, Critter Crunch, Need for Speed… Do I need to keeping going?

So… game on, eh?

 

IMAX

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When, this summer, you kick back and watch Inception - or, um, Eclipse - in IMAX, you can thank those crazy Canadians for the stunning picture quality and sound. IMAX was developed in Canada by by Graeme Ferguson, Roman Kroitor, Robert Kerr, and William C. Shaw.

So, if you’ve ever wanted someone to blame for the same stupid IMAX introduction you have to watch every single time – or if you’ve ever wondered why it was so damn cold in the theater during The Dark Knight – now you know.

 

Start-Ups

But it’s not just fancy tech like the Blackberry and IMAX that comes from Canada. The Great White North is also home to a bumber of hot web properties. It’s not quite Silicon Valley North yet – but it’s definitely on its way. Here are some key start-ups and small web companies that are making a difference.

 

Bump Top

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Bumptop turns your desktop into a 3D version of… well, a desktop. But before you ask “why would I want to do that?”, check out the video. It’s pretty amazing the way it turns common computer drudgery like organizing files into groups or flipping through photos into simple, intuitive multitouch tasks.

Now, technically speaking ‘Bumptop’ as an independent company no longer exists – because they were recently snatched up by Google. Yep. So expect to see this technology implemented in some fashion into ChromeOS or Android tablets in the future.

 

Cover It Live

If you’re the sort of person who follows liveblogs closely, whether of a Steve Jobs keynote or announcements at E3, it’s likely you’ve seen liveblogging software Cover It Live.

Cover It Live allows you to… erm… cover stuff live. What? Simple and clear is good for a start-up, right? It’s being used by http://Kotaku, Yahoo, the BBC, ESPN and even those crazy kooks at WWE. Other than the ease of implementing it into a site, smaller sites, educators, citizen journalists etc. can use a free version for under 5000 readers. Sweet.

 

StumbleUpon

Another little known-fact: Garrett Camp, the founder of popular discovery tool StumbleUpon is – you guessed it! – Canadian.

 

Hootsuite

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Hardcore Twitter users will tell you: Hootsuite is serious stuff. A social media dashboard that also includes analytics and measurement tools, Hootsuite is to power Twitter users what Macbooks are to nerdy hipsters who like to hang out at Starbucks: essential.

 

TinEye

Have you ever been stuck looking for an image, randomly typing in keywords hoping to land on the right one? Well, what if you could search for images based on similar images? Well, that’s what TinEye does.

Sure for bloggers, it’s a boon. But this Canadian invention is also great for people looking for famous paintings, images to manipulate or even for likenesses of themselves or people they know. As TinEye say “it does for images what Google does for text”.

 

The Nerdy North, Strong and Free?

Of course, this is only a small sampling of the tech and web developments that have come from Canada. But what else, Canada-o-philes? What great web and tech inventions come from Canada?

Written by Navneet Alang

Navneet Alang is a technology-culture writer based in Toronto. You can find him on Twitter at @navalang
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Comments
  • http://teknisyan.net Teknisyan

    hey.. you forgot corel.. which created PaintShop Pro, Corel Draw and Wordperfect lol :)

    Happy Canada Day!!!

    http://teknisyan.net

  • Taylor

    Actually it wasn’t the University of Waterloo that hosted Steven Hawking, it was the Perimeter Institute. It’s basically a physics think tank.

  • http://www.sliderocket.com Nat

    I think you forgot Flickr, from Vancouver eh?

  • http://canadiantechblogger.com Brad

    Didn’t know IMAX was Canadian…cool :).