DATAR Archive

Dublin Core


DATAR Archive



An archive of documents on Digital Automatic Tracking and Remoting System (DATAR) created by Commander James (Jim) Louis Belyea, Royal Canadian Navy.


DATAR (Digital Automatic Tracking and Remoting) was a comprehensive digital electronic system developed at the Royal Canadian Navy between late 1940s and early 1950s. Its purpose was to assist and aid naval command during complex naval warfare situations caused by large volume of high speed targets (e.g. airplanes and submarines). DATAR was to provide the command with a complete, up-to-date, and accurate picture of the tactical and strategic situations. It was to rapidly analyze data received from a variety of sources and to provide the necessary information and issue commands to all the ships linked by the DATAR network.

DATAR was a brainchild of Royal Canadian Navy Lieutenant  James Louis Belyea. The first known proposal for the system was summarized in his  April 15, 1948 document entitled DATAR.

A successful demonstration of DATAR  took place in Fall 1953 on Lake Ontario using a three-ship convoy  consisting of two Bangor-class minesweepers (HMCS Granby and Digby) and the third ship simulated by a shore station on the Scarborough Bluffs overlooking Lake Ontario. At the heart of the demonstrated DATAR system were three special-purpose digital computers built by Ferranti Electric Ltd, Toronto, and installed on the ships. Canadian, American and British military observing the demonstration were impressed with the system's performance and potential.

It is difficult to overestimate DATAR's historical significance. The project contributed to the creation of the first  Canadian computer companies (e.g. Computing Devices of Canada), originated the first digital electronics research centers within Canadian companies (e.g. the Electronics Division of Ferranti Electric Ltd.), and spawned the first generation of digital electronics engineers. DATAR also resulted in the development and demonstration of the first wireless computer communications network and of the installation and operation of an electronic digital computer equipment in a mobile environment. It introduced novel digital transmission equipment, input and display devices  (the trackball and a new generation of radar tracker displays). In the words of Arthur Porter, director of research at Ferranti Electric's Electronics Division, DATAR was "the most advanced system of its kind in the world." Now, DATAR symbolizes Canada's early entrance into computer age at the end of the 1940s.

In 1958, due to claimed high costs of development, the construction of the full scale DATAR system was canceled. Some historians conjectured that all the technical reports on DATAR have either been destroyed or lost. However, in 2021, Belyea estate donated J.L Belyea's archive to YUCoM. At least this collection of documents offers a glimpse into the creation of DATAR -- one of the most significant  Canadian technological achievements.

For more information on DATAR, visit Cold War Computing.

Reports, technical notes
  • J. Belyea, DATAR, Canadian Naval Electronics Laboratory, Ottawa, Canada, April 15, 1948 [D9]
  • Staff Target, Naval DATAR Equipment Type WEB-1 for A/S Escort Use, N.S.S. 7428-16 (5 pages), unsigned, August 15, 1949 [D23]
  • Development Target, Naval DATAR Equipment Type WEB-1, N.S.S. 7428-16 (3 pages), unsigned, March 29, 1950 [D23]
  • Jim Belyea, DATAR, A New Development, Report no. D.400, Ottawa, Ontario, January 28, 1950 [D7]
  • Automated Tracking, A Report to the Electrical Engineer-in-Chief, Electronics Design Section, National Defence Headquarters, Ottawa Canada,  Technical Report no. 3, Ferranti Electric Ltd., Toronto, Canada, November 1950 [D26]
  • DATAR Study, A Report To: The Electrical Engineer-in -Chief, Electronics Design Section, National Defence Headquarters, Ottawa, Canada, technical Report No. 6, E.E.C. Ref. 1440,  Ferranti Electric Ltd., Toronto, Ontario, November, 1950. [D6]
  • J.L. Belyea and J.B. Hall, Report on Londonderry Trip, memorandum to E.E.C, E.E.C Ref. 1436, N.S.S. 7428-16 (TS) November 14, 1950; the report includes:
    • J.L. Belyea, Report of visits to HMCS "Magnificent", HMCS "Huron" and Joint A/S School, Londonderry 22 August, to 15 September, 1950, to study A/S Warfare matters affecting the Datar development project, report NsC 7428-IL, November 14, 1950 [D15]
    • S.F. Knights, Report on 1950 Summer Cruise of HMCS "Magnificent", "Huron", and "Micmac" from 22 August, to 15 September, 1950, with a view to an evaluation of Datar application, November 14, 1950 [D15]
    • L.R. Wood, Report of the Ferranti Electric Limited representative to the RCN exercises at Londonderry during September, 1950, in connection with the Datar development project, October 12, 1950 [D15]
  • A Proposal For a Datar System, Technical Report No. 8, RL 109.19,  Ferranti Electric Ltd., Toronto, Ontario, September 1, 1951. [D3]
  • Specifications for DATAR Model, A Report to Datar Committee, National Defence Headquarters, Ottawa, Canada, Ferranti Electric Ltd., Research Department, Toronto, Canada, November 16, 1951 [D4]
  • J.M. Davison and E.J. Miller, Meeting of the Development Section, EEC/CNTS, R.C.N.,  A/EEC(D) Technical Note nr. 1500, April 9, 1951 [D19]
  • E.J. Miller, Organization of Effort for the Datar Development Programme, A/EEC(D) Technical Note nr. 5000, May 8, 1951 [D19]
  • E.J. Miller, Discussion on Datar Between Representatives of the R.C.N. and Ferranti Electric Limited, A/EEC(D) Technical Note nr. 5001, May 8, 1951 [D19]
  • The Experimental Digital Automatic Tracking and Remoting System (DATAR), Part Two -- Technical Description, Royal Canadian Navy, Naval Headquarters, Ottawa, Ontario, 15 August, 1953 [D2]
  • R.C.N. Development of a Digital Automatic Tracking and Remoting System (DATAR), NSS 7428-16 (Staff), April 1, 1953 [D22]
  • DATAR -- An Explanation, unsigned, undated [D22]
  • Tentative Staff Requirements, Naval A/S DATAR Equipment, unsigned, undated [D22]
  • S.F. Knights, A Progress Report on DATAR, NSS 7426-16 (EEC), September 16, 1954 [D21]
  • RCN Proposal for International Automatic Radio Message, Appendix "A" to NSS 7428-16 (EEC), February 7, 1955 [D21]
  • DATAR Project "SPIDER" - Royal Canadian Navy (preliminary document and corrections), undated [D10]
  • Some Typical Problems as Seen in DATAR by Mr. S.F. Knights, undated [D11]
  • Partial List of Problems Involved in DATAR, undated [D11]
Minutes of meetings
  • Minutes of an Inter-Service Meeting held 14th October, 1949 to discuss DATA[R], Transmission problems and DRB contracts X-3-3 and K-5-1 [D19]
  • J.S. Johnson, [minutes of] 2nd Meeting of Project Committee on DATAR, NSS 7428-16, November 15, 1950 [D19]
  • J.S. Johnson, [minutes of] Special Meeting of the Research Control Committee [on DATAR], NSS 7428-16, June 17, 1950 [D19]
  • E.J. Miller, Minutes of Second Meeting of the Development Section, EEC/CNTS, R.C.N., 20 April, 1951, A/EEC(D) Technical Note nr. 1501, May 9, 1951 [D19]
  • J.S. Johnson, Minutes of 4th Meeting [of Project Committee on DATAR] held at 1400, 9 February, 1951, NSS 7428-16 [D19]
  • J.S. Johnson, Minutes of 5th Meeting [of Project Committee on DATAR] held at 1400, 13 March, 1951, NSS 7428-16 [D19]
Laboratory records, notebooks, and handwritten notes
  • Jim Belyea, Confidential Notebook, RCN Room 2311C, EEC/CNTS, National Headquarters, Ottawa, undated [D8]
  • Jim Belyea, a file of handwritten notes named "Old" DATAR Notes, undated, [D12]
  • J. Belyea, a file of handwritten notes on DATAR, 1950s [D14]
  • J. Belyea, handwritten technical notes, undated [D9A]
  • J. Belyea's handwritten notes on the early days of DATAR, 16 pages, undated [D1]
  • M.K. Taylor, Ferranti Electric Ltd. Laboratory Record, Book no. 1, December 2. 1949 - February 1953 [D5]
  • J. Belyea, a file of handwritten notes on DATAR and tactical trainers, 1980s [D26A]
Other Documents
  • E.E.C Specification #E4 901, Construction of a Data Transmission System, November 25, 1948 [D25]
  • E.E.C Specification #E4 900, A Study of Data Transmission Methods, November 26, 1948 [D25]
  • E.E.C Specification #D2-04, Datar programme -- technical study contract, August 18, 1950 [D25]
  • J. Belyea, Memorandum on the present status of the R.C.N. Development Program on a Tactical Integrated System for anti-submarine warfare applications, August 16, 1950 [D17]
  • J. Belyea, "Dolphins": A proposal for exploiting DATAR in the anti-submarine role [...], October 1, 1953 [D16]
  • General Schedule of A/S Type DATAR Programme, EEC/CNTS (1 page), unsigned, March 11, 1951 [D24]
  • W.H.G. Rogers, Data Transmission Systems, memorandum to the chairman, The Warning and Identification Subcommittee, Joint  Telecommunications Committee, Department of National Defence, NSS 7428-16, July 9, 1952 [D17]
  • A file of RCN DATAR documents consisting of: 
    • D.J. Hanington,  a draft covering letter to JCEC re Naval Data Processing System - "DATAR", December 4, 1953  (1 page) [D18]
    • Minutes of 3rd Meeting, held at 1430, 3rd November, 1953 at 139 1/2 Sparks Street, Data Processing Sub-Committee of the Joint Telecommunications Committee (2 pages), unsigned, undated [D18]
    • W.H.G. Roger, Naval Data Processing System - "DATAR", memorandum to the Chairman, Data Transmission Sub-Committee, NSS 7426-16 (EEC), (1 page) Ottawa, November 30, 1953 [D18]
    • Appendix A: A Digital Automatic Tracking and Remoting System, Draft Staff Requirements, (3 pages) National Defence Headquarters, Ottawa, June 19, 1953 [D18]
    • Appendix B: A Digital Automatic Tracking and Remoting System, Operational Specifications (14 pages), NSS 7428-16 (Stuff), July 16, 1953 [D18]
    • Appendix C: DATAR - The Model X Experimental and Demonstration System, NSS 7428-16, unsigned, undated (19pages) [D18]
    • A Digital Automatic Tracking and Remoting System (DATAR), Operational Specifications (3 pages) July 16, 1953 [D18]
  • Financial Statement -- FM 109,069, Datar Project, unsigned, undated [D22]
  • W.H.G. Roger, Research and Development  Estimates, 1956-57, memorandum to D.S.S., NSS 2200-56(EEC), August 8, 1955 [D22]
  • S.F. Knights, Specification. Facilities desired in 3 -Ship Datar Model, undated [21]
  • Five J. Belyea's notebooks with handwritten technical notes, 1946-1951
Photographs and drawings
  • Two photographs of DATAR demonstration system included with the report [D7]
  • One photograph of DATAR demonstration system module (included with [D5])
  • A photograph of an electronic board (included with [D5])
  • A block diagram of DATAR architecture, title: U.S.N. Version of DATAR (I) (Interim System (before 1952)), Canadian Naval Electronic Laboratory, May 26, 1948 [D20]
  • A block diagram of DATAR architecture, title: U.S.N. Version of DATAR (II), Fully Automatic Systems (before 1957), Canadian Naval Electronic Laboratory, May 26, 1948 [D20]
  • schematic diagram of an unidentified electronic unit, Ferranti Electric Ltd., Toronto, Canada, February 17, 1949 [D20]
  • a letter from W.B. Lewis to G.S. Field regarding DATAR demonstration, February 3, 1950 [D24]
  • a letter from W.H.C. Roger to J.L. Belyea about Belyea's contributions to DATAR earning commendation from Naval, February 11, 1950 [D24]
  • email correspondence between  Jim Belyea and Ken Bowering, February-April,  2010 [D0]
  • A letter from A. Porter, Head of Research Department, Ferranti Electric Ltd, to the Naval Secretary, Navy Headquarters, National Defence Building, Ottawa, Ontario, regarding "Patents arising out of development work in connection with contracts for The Electrical Engineer-in-Chief", June 26, 1950 [D13]

Collection Items

DATAR images
DATAR project: scans of photographs and front pages of technical documents. For full listing of DATAR-related documents and photographs, consult DATAR Collection.
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