The beginnings of radio can be traced right back to over a century ago. But these days, what we know as radio is a far cry from the original development.
Radio has evolved dramatically since the late 1800s, with the emergence of new technologies impacting how we experience and interact with different stations.
We’ll take a look at the history of radio, how its popularity has wavered throughout time and how technology has contributed to a new resurgence.
The first form of the radio was the wireless telegraph, invented by Italian entrepreneur Guglielmo Marconi in the 1890s. However, what was known as ‘radio’ was patented by the US Navy just before World War I.
Radio during World War II
Up until the 1930s, radio technology was based on crystal components. These were soon replaced by valve radios, however, and used widely by the Nazi party in Germany as a propaganda tool.
The UK also made extensive use of radios during this time, so much so that it resulted in a shortage of components. Radio manufacturers then developed the wartime civilian receiver to combat these shortages.
Expansion of radio
By the 1920s, radio had become more widespread, with broadcasts from various organizations, including the government. Radio as an entertainment medium was also realized during this time.
The number of radio stations increased rapidly, with NBC and CBS beginning national networks in 1926 and 1927, respectively.
In the UK, the BBC was at the forefront of radio broadcasts, with families enjoying the medium as one of the main sources of entertainment.
The invention of the transistor in 1947 allowed the transistor radio to be developed. This new form of radio technology was made possible by the use of 9v batteries, which are still used today in a wide variety of applications.
Transistor radios were among the most popular devices during the sixties and seventies before being overtaken by the Walkman.
Decline and resurgence
Radio initially suffered a significant decline with the rise of television, particularly as television sets became more affordable and widespread. However, the rapid development of new, digital technologies has, in the past two decades, given radio a new lease of life.
Internet radio stations can now be accessed from almost everywhere. And the development of fresh formats, a huge variety of genres, and stations for all interests means radio still holds a significant place in the modern era.
It’s unclear what the future of radio looks like, but, if past decades are anything to go by, broadcasts will likely become even more niche, catering to audiences from all walks of life and providing more opportunities for interactive listening.
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