The ICONORAMA (in the FWC at CFS Carp / CEGHQ

Introduction

News Article announcing the development of the ICONORAMA as an accurate, secure image transmission device, a capability that was not available in the late 1950s -early 1960s.

THURSDAY, AUGUST , 20, 1959 New Device Will Plot All Planes COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Science Service)— A new system has been developed for keeping track of all airplanes, friendly or unfriendly, approaching or flying over the tJ. S. The new plotting system, called Iconorama, will be -installed here at North American Air Defense Command (NOftAD) headquarters and at Strategic Air Command (SAC) headquarters at Omaha, Neb. Iconorama shows almost instantly the positions of aircraft thousands of miles away, such as those that might be detected by the Dis- stant Early warning defensive radar network. By projecting the automatically! drawn tracks on a big screen, it has been demonstrated that the system can do the work of six men at the old clear-plastic plot-i ling boards used since World War II. The Inconorama system expands i traffic information handling capac-i ity by 400 per cent. It is expected’ to pay for itself in four years byi obviating human plotters. • i Traces made by the planes be-| ing tracked are scribed on a coated ! slide by a moving stylus. Data re-‘ ceived over existing telelype lines] are made to guide lite stylus over the slide, scribing a special metallic coating. The slide plot measures only one inch square, yet overall error of the projected display is said to be about one part in 1,000. As many slides as needed may be used to cover a given situation. Each is projected, in register, on the viewing screen and in its own identifying color. When the slides become tilled with tracks, or the situation is over, the slides are replaced. Each removed slide can be filed as part of the flight record of the plane it represents. ‘ ( Leasing contracts for the Icono- rama system, made by Fenske, Fedrick and Miller, Inc., Los Angeles, call for installation to ‘be completed at NORAD by July, 1960, and at SAC by October, 1959 Iconorama units already have been installed and operated at the Pacific Missile Range, Point Mugu Calif.; the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico; the Atlantic Missile Range at Cape Canaveral, Fla., and the Naval Research Lab oratory, Washington, D. C. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation also is understood to have signed a contractor for use of Iconorama at its Palo Alto, Calif, control center.

Advertising the ICONORAMA
ICPONORAMA in use
ICONORAMA Display at NORAD HQ circa 1960
Re-creation of a typical ICONORAMA image

See Air Defense Doctrine for More Detailed Explanation

“The North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) is a combined command exercising operational control of forces allocated for AD of Canada, Alaska, and the continental United States. Its mission is “To defend the North American Continent against aerospace attack.” Headquarters NORAD, located at Colorado Springs, Colorado, prepares operational plans, conducts tactical exercises and readiness tests, and coordinates plans and requirements for new AD weapons. It is the supreme headquarters for directing the air defense of North America in the event of war. “

Carp Memories Written by Brian Johannesson, P.Eng. December 2011 (as passed to Dave Peters). Explanation of the technical basis for the Canadian ICONORAMA from one of its builders.

“From 1959 to 1964 I was an Electronics Engineer with Canadian Aviation Electronics on Cote deLiesse Road in Montreal. In early 1961 CAE was awarded a contract from the Canadian Army todesign and manufacture an Iconorama display system for the government bunker being built near Carp,Ontario. This system was to read teletype messages containing target information, originating from NORAD SAGE computers at Colorado Springs, then decode, translate and draw the target information on the theater screen.”

Webmaster note: Brian Johannesson visited the Diefenbunker from his home south of Toronto in the summer of 2012 to see what we were doing about the FWC and the ICONORAMA. Unfortunately none of the staff showed much interested in pursuing anything about the device and nothing further was done about this important technological achievement. In fact no funds were even made available to complete the ‘dressing’ of the FWC reconstruction and the room has fallen into disrepair because of lack of interest by the staff. The ICONORAMA was a mainstay of graphical information transmission and display from its installation circa 1961 to its disposal circa 1967?

FWC just after its reconstruction circa 2009. The openings in the back wall are where the various components of the ICONORAMA Images would have been projected from.
One of five sequential slides illustrating the display of the ICONORAMA in the FWC created by Amber Peters circa 2012. Display currently not working due to lack of interest by staff.

Iconorama – View a simulation of the iconorama display in the Federal Warning Centre (FWC) that would have been transmitted from NORAD HQ to the Diefenbunker. This simulation was produced by bunker volunteer Amber Peters for continuous display in the Federal Warning Centre reconstruction to illustrate the type of images that would have been projected on the front screen by the Iconorama. Because the video projector was removed from that room (for reasons unknown) some years ago, the display has not been functional for many years.

Decoder Cabinet

Mr. Johannesson was given the task of designing the Decoder unit for that system which was to decode teletype messages from NORAD HQ in Colorado Springs and display the results on the theater screen.

FWC Layout As-Built Design Blueprints (used to reconstruct the configuration of the original room)
ICONORAMA Control Console (probably NORAD HQ)
Teletype used to received ICONORAMA coded information providing data fed into the Decoder Cabinet that was used to create situational status slides for display in the FWC
Simulated ICONORAMA Projection in Reconstructed Federal Warning Centre

Many of the US and Canadian HQs had ICONORAMA displays that were used by the military and civilians involved in vital decision making. I was shown an operational version as late as the mid-80s when I visited one of the US facilities. (The Carp FWC version was apparently disposed of in the late 60s/early 70s), In the case of the Federal Warning Centre in the CEGHQ at Carp, the ICONORAMA image was displayed in the front of a theatre-like room so that all of the decision input officials would be able to provide advice to the Federal Warning Officer (FWO) seated at the centre of the top row. The FWO would be responsible for initiating warning messages to Provincial Warning Officers located in various Regional HQs (usually associated the Provincial capitals) across the country. These warning messages would /could result in evacuations being ordered, stay put instructions being issued, sirens being sounded and many other measures being initiated.

The information on which the ICONORAMA display was based would have originated in NORAD HQs (Cheyanne Mountain in Colorado and/or North Bay, Ontario) . It would have been assembled by that HQ from assessed intelligence and operational data flowing from many sources including the DEW, Mid Canada and McGill radar stations, from BMEWS inputs, etc. When received by the FWC teletypes, the message would have been decoded (in the Decoder Cabinet) and ‘scratched’ on a small 35 mm-type metallised slide. This ‘latest-information’ slide would then be projected on the front screen. This would then be superimposed on a base-map constantly displayed on the screen by another projector. The base-map would be the North American continent map with sector boundaries, and other such data displayed. (The ‘windows’ on back wall of the FWC are for these projectors…there would have been three or four of them). I believe that the slides would have been updated frequently, possibly as often as every five minutes to try to keep up with what would have been a very fluid battle situation.