How Hard Can it Be?

Hand-cranked printers were pretty cheap, writing things seemed pretty straightforward, and there was clearly a need for a practical wiring instruction manual.  This was enough to convince Peter Knight to become a spare-time publisher.  The first edition of Electrical Code Simplified (“ECS”) was released in 1967.  Of course, the term “released” might be somewhat aggrandizing in this context.  The book was printed and then handed out, like samples at a grocery store.  Peter Knight spent a couple of Saturdays at hardware stores in the Vancouver area, impressing the workers there with the idea that they could sell more electrical products if their customers were confident about doing electrical work.

Printing the 1969 edition


what better way to give them confidence than with an instruction manual.  But launching a business in one’s spare time is a daunting thing.  One day however, an unemployed electrician happened upon a copy of ECS in an electronics shop at Richmond’s Shellmont Shopping Center.  He was quite taken with it and asked Peter to give him 300 copies.  He planned to drive north to Prince George and sell the books at each stop along the way.  As the entire empire of P.S. Knight Co. at that point consisted of about 1000 books and no customers, the offer was accepted.  Off the man went and within a month he’d sold his inventory.  A month later P.S. Knight Co. started getting re-orders from the places this man had visited.  Another month and a reprinting was needed.


ECS 1968 Edition with original title & ECS 1975 Edition

Clearly this part-time book project was a bigger deal than it first appeared; the operation would have to formalize some of its newfound relationships.  The CSA organization, an early supporter of Peter Knight’s book project, agreed to give the ECS books their formal blessing.  Their only reservation?  CSA requested a name change, so P.S. Knight Co. changed its registered product name from “The Canadian Electrical Code in Simple Terms and Diagrams” to “Electrical Code Simplified.”  Then all was well. 

Starting in 1966 with the decision to publish, and from the first Code edition in 1967 through to the 2006 edition, over a period of forty years and twelve Code cycles, the CSA organization actively participated in the publication of every new edition of ECS.


One should note that printing books is the easy part of publishing, writing them is much harder.  Peter spent hours in research, in drafting illustrations, in writing version after version of a single paragraph to ensure that the rules were conveyed as clearly as possible.

The first separate ECS book covering Commercial & Industrial wiring was published in 1974.  Earlier ECS publications had included some electrical regulations that were more relevant to larger installations than residential wiring, so there was already a compelling argument to separate ECS into two books, as a purely Residential book (aka: Book 1) and a purely Commercial & Industrial book (aka: Book 2).  An added benefit to splitting the publication was the opportunity to greatly expand the detail relating to larger installations.


Growing print volumes were becoming a strain on the hand-cranked printer apparatus.  Sometime in the early 1970’s, Peter Knight had replaced the hand-crank arm with a pulley and mated this to an electric motor to spin the printer into some impressive RPMs.  But haywire engineering has its limits.  In time, an offset printer was purchased, a Multilith 1250.  A few years later a Gestetner 211 was added.  The 211 was splashy; it had suction page-feed and a print counter, the publishing equivalent of new-car-smell and cupholders.  On the flip-side, it had a lot of adjustable parts that needed constant fiddling.  One could spent hours fiddling and print only a few pages, and when everything was somehow working one wouldn’t stop the process for any reason; just let it run until something goes wrong, don’t break to eat or sleep until then.  But for all the annoyance of constant adjusting, it did increase production markedly.