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The Changes to Radios over the last 100 years

Radios have been one of the more important technological devices for more than a century. From their beginnings in the early 1800's until the new developments in recent years, radios have helped to provide communication as well as entertainment throughout the society of many cultures.

The early years of the radio technology began early in the 1800s, but the actual invention cannot be attributed to only one person. During this time period, several inventors created and improved upon the technology that became the radio as we know it today. Once referred to as “wireless telegraphy,” radio technology has always included electronic signaling between a transmitter and one or more receivers. In order to accomplish this, there are many several pieces of technology that fit together.


The first major breakthrough in the radio technology occurred in 1895 when the first patent for the radio was granted to Guglielmo Marconi. Though the idea was around, the actual devices that made the technology possible was not readily available until 1901. For this era, the radio technology was limited to communications with ships in case of an emergency. In 1907, the first commercial transatlantic radio service was created. From there, the technology continued to draw interested engineers and inventors from all sorts of industries.


During the late 1800s, Nikola Tesla made several advances that got people interested in the radio technology. In 1893, he presented the idea in a lecture to many astonished people in St. Louis, Missouri. It was here that he actually demonstrated the wireless radio technology that other people were trying to produce in the form of an effective and reliable device.

Early Radio Stations

With many great minds working on this idea, it wasn’t long before radio stations began to pop up throughout the world. In the United States, there is speculation about the actual first radio station. Much of the debate lies in the actual definition of what a radio station constitutes as well as what they were supposed to do. KCBS is often regarded as the very first commercial radio station in the country, but there are others that produced regular radio programming and other services around the same decade. KDKA in Pittsburgh, for instance, began producing communication over the radio waves in 1920. In 1919, a University of Wisconsin-Madison radio station boasted the first human speech to go out over the airwaves. It was only a matter of two years before music was one of the more common uses that people were using the radio for.

The first radio frequency used was the AM frequency in 1906 during World War I. Because of its reliability, it was also the most popular frequency for broadcasting beginning in 1920. The AM frequency remained the dominant frequency for broadcasting for over three decades. This period is often referred to as the Golden Age of Radio. Radio stations during this time produced a wide variety of entertaining programs. In addition to music, radio stations also played dramatic episodes of programs, such as Amos ‘n’ Andy and Superman. Radios also became the preferred method for communicating the news of the day.

From AM (amplitude modulation) to FM (frequency modulation)

While the AM frequency was popular for broadcasting throughout the 1950s and beyond, researchers began developing the FM in the 1940s as an alternative to AM. This method became popular during the 1960s and took hold throughout the 1970s. It was more popular than the AM signal because it could transmit on any frequency. Although its original purpose was intended for classical music lovers and educational purposes, the FM method was a favorite for rock music in the 1960s. It wasn’t until 1978, however, that the FM programming had more listeners than the AM.

The changing way we listen to Radio Today

In addition to these developments, there is also the creation of the subscription-based radio services. Sirius and XM radio are not controlled by federal regulations in the same way that normal airwaves are governed. This gives both listeners and broadcasters more options to fit their listening pleasure. Made popular by Howard Stern, these radio services are also commercial-free, which is another great advancement in the radio industry.

With the advancements that have just been made in recent years, there is no telling where the radio technology will lead to next. Instead of television, the wide variety of radio programs are becoming more enticing to people throughout the world because of its availability and simplicity.