When was the radio invented? Where did it come from, and why did it have such a profound impact on our lives?
Today, radios are a common technology in the home and car. Wherever you go, you can connect to your favourite shows. Some forward-thinking digital stations even allow people to download and stream sessions from a website.
Though it might not seem like the newest or most disruptive technology, radio is enormous. In 2018, American’s averaged a listening time of 106 minutes per day for radio. Additionally, radio reaches around 90% of all adults – making it an incredible opportunity for advertising.
However, even if you understand the value of radio, you might not know much about where it came from.
The history of radio invention isn’t as clear as you’d think. There’s a great deal of controversy around questions like “who invented the radio,” and “what year was the radio invented?”
Today, we’re going to deliver the crucial knowledge that you need for your first introduction to the history (and potential) of radio.
Ready to know more? Then tune in.
What's In This Article
- Radio invention: Who’s really responsible?
- What year was the radio invented?
- Why was the radio invented?
- Revolution radio: How radio changed the world
- 1. Connecting the planet
- 2. Supporting social movements
- 3. Development of the music industry
- Reviving retro: What’s next for radio?
- We’ve come a long way from the first radio invented
Radio invention: Who’s really responsible?
Today, you’d struggle to find someone who hasn’t used or seen a radio in their lives. However, this wasn’t always the case. Before the 19th century rolled around, there was no such thing as wireless communication.
Even when radio technology began to emerge in the late 1800s, it took years for the concept to go mainstream.
It’s perhaps the slow and complicated growth of the radio invention that it makes it so difficult to determine what year the radio was invented, and who should be credited for its arrival.
Though there are many arguments around the invention of the radio, most people agree that either Nikolai Tesla or Guglielmo Marconi that was responsible for the first radio invented.
In 1893, Nikolai Tesla, one of the world’s most famous inventors, demonstrated the first wireless radio in St Louis, Missouri.
However, Guglielmo Marconi frequently earns the title of “Father of Radio.” Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that Guglielmo was awarded the first patent for wireless telegraphy in England in 1896.
A year later, Tesla filed patents for his radio, which were granted in 1900. However, Marconi was the first person to transmit radio signals across the Atlantic Ocean.
Most people believe that the answer for the question: “When was the radio invented.” Comes down to your thoughts on the Tesla and Marconi debate. However, it also depends on which part of the radio’s invention you’re interested in.
The original roots of the radio invention go back to the early 1800s. A Danish physicist named Hans Orsted, laid the foundations for the science, by discovering the relativity between direct current and magnetic energy in 1819. This theory went on to form the basis for other inventions.
For instance, Andre-Marie Ampere invented “solenoid” technology to create magnetic fields. In 1831, Michael Faraday developed his theory, suggesting that a change in the magnetic field may have the potential to generate electromotive forces.
This theory of “inductance” played a significant part in the development of radio. In the same year, professor at Princeton, Joseph Henry began working on electromagnetic relay technology.
Long before radio, as we know it today, came about, James Clerk Maxwell, a physicist from Scotland, predicted its arrival. In 1886, Heinrich Rudolph Hertz went on to show that electric currents could be projected in the form of radio waves.
Some people even suggest that the first radio invented can be credited to a dentist named Mahlon Loomis. In 1866, this dentist demonstrated that wireless telegraphy worked.
As with most technologies, the questions of who created the radio, and what year was the radio first invented, is difficult to answer. It seems that many people were involved in the perception and development of radio as we know it today.
While Tesla might get credit for the concept of using radio for communication, the radio would never have become what it is now without Marconi.
What year was the radio invented?
As mentioned above, the question of “When was the radio invented,” is almost as complicated as the query of “who created it?”
Radio primarily owes its evolution to the invention of both the telephony and the telegraph. All of these technologies are more closely related than you might think.
Radio started life as “wireless telegraphy,” and it was designed for communication, rather than music and entertainment.
The term “radio” might describe appliances made by companies like Roberts Radio or the content that we hear from these machines. In both cases, everything started with the discovery of radio waves.
These electromagnetic waves are capable of transmitting music, speech, and useful information through the air. It’s not just radios that use these waves today, but remote-control toys, televisions, and more.
While many things contributed to the invention and development of radio technology, it took a while for scientists to figure out how to make the most of these new waves.
Guglielmo often wins the question of who invented radio, because he managed to prove first-hand its capacity for communication. Marconi both sent and received his first radio signals in 1895, and he was also the first to send messages across the ocean.
In 1910, Marconi established the American-European radiotelegraph service.
In 1915, the first speech was transmitted using radio waves from New York to San Francisco. Five years after this, the Westinghouse KDKA-Pittsburgh channel broadcasted the Cox-Harding election information through radio.
They also launched their first ever daily schedule of radio programs. By 1927, radiotelephony services were linking Europe and North America.
If you’re wondering “when was the radio invented for entertainment purposes?” It was a long time after the original development of those first crucial waves.
Although the history of radio goes all the way back through the 18th century, it wasn’t until 1965 that the first radio invented for entertainment emerged.
Edwin Howard Armstrong created the frequency modulated “FM” radio in 1933.
The FM radio could improve the audio signal of radio by controlling static noise levels. In 1965, the first FM Antenna system in the world opened. This station allowed individual stations to use the FM radio waves to broadcast from a single source.
The station opened on the Empire State Building in New York, and the world as we knew it changed once again.
Why was the radio invented?
So, why was the radio invented?
Today, we use radio for a variety of things. Companies advertise their products over radio and share audio content to engage their users. Radio acts as a source of support and information when we’re on the road.
We can listen to it to get news and weather updates or check the traffic. We even use radio channels specifically for entertainment. Radio often keeps us entertained and informed during long trips. However, the origins of radio are much simpler than you’d think.
Depending on who you ask, the first radio invented would have been called a “spark gap machine.” These devices allowed for ship-to-ship, and ship-to-shore communications.
Though the conversation was confined to two points, it allowed crucial people to stay connected.
Eventually, wireless signals began to emerge as an effective form of communication, particularly for people who needed to be rescued at sea, after fishing or naval disasters.
Ocean liners began installing wireless equipment, and by 1899, the US army had started to invest in radio communication. After 2 years, the entire Navy had adopted the wireless radio system.
This was clearly a far more reliable solution than the homing pigeons and visual signals the Navy had relied on before.
The first Radiotelegraph services were developed in the Hawaiian Islands in 1901. A “Marconi Station,” located in Massachusetts carried messages between Theodore Roosevelt and King Edward.
In 1905, the naval battle of Port Arthur was even transmitted over wireless technology.
The most straightforward answer to “why was the radio invented?” is communication. However, communication has many forms. Over the years, radio transmission technology continued to improve.
Overseas radio services began to be developed. Lee DeForest discovered in the early 1990s that a solution capable of detecting electromagnetic radiation was crucial for developing the radio.
He was the first person to use the word “radio,” and his work resulted in the discovery of AM technology.
AM radio led to the broadcast of radio stations that early gap transmitters couldn’t support.
Since then, radio has been transforming and evolving at a consistent pace. Today, radio isn’t just a method of driving communications between people.
It’s also a way for larger organisations to communicate one-way with their followers, to deliver consistent information and entertainment. People aren’t necessarily limited to local radio stations anymore either.
Satellite technology and digital streaming mean that people can listen to international stations with no hassle.
Revolution radio: How radio changed the world
No-one could have predicted that the first radio invented would lead to the technology we have today. Now, radio is so much more than we could ever have imagined. Broadcasting is no longer Morse code transmitted by Hertzian waves.
Traditional radio strategies have been replaced by more effective and sustainable solutions for communication and entertainment.
Radio stations seem to always be accessible – even when your phone and satellite connections falter. As such, the technology has become a reliable staple in both homes and vehicles. Most people today couldn’t imagine driving around without access to the radio.
In addition to music, modern stations are also taking advantage of podcast popularity. Many of today’s stations feature talk shows, game shows, and interviews. Since its introduction, the radio invention has changed the way that human beings connect on a fundamental level.
Radio is also responsible for spurring many of the innovations most crucial to us today.
It’s hard to believe that there was once a time when it would take weeks to learn what was going on around the world. Before it became the source of the soundtrack to most of our lives, radio was transforming the communication world.
Aside from altering the way that human beings connected, here are some of the other ways that the radio invention changed life as we know it.
1. Connecting the planet
Back before the radio was invented, there was no Google to check what was happening in the world. Televisions didn’t exist to broadcast the news each night. Each country in the world was siloed and separated from the others.
The planet and its people were disconnected and isolated. The arrival of radio meant that during world war 2, the military could communicate what was happening on the front line.
Around the world, people would gather around the radio each day, waiting for news from their friends and loved ones. Radio even played an important role in broadcasting important information within secret organisations fighting back against the Nazis.
Radio connected the planet and gave us the information we needed to grow as a species.
2. Supporting social movements
Even back before the age of the internet, the concept of “viral” news was already spreading, thanks to radio. Radio technology is responsible for capturing some of the most important moments of the 20th century.
It even helped to drive social movements on a huge scale. For instance, one of the most famous broadcasts of all time is the “I Have a Dream” speech from Martin Luther King.
This incredible announcement, broadcast over radio, inspired millions of people. At the time when King was speaking, black people were treated as second-class citizens.
Some locations didn’t even let black people eat or learn in the same environments as white people. Martin Luther King’s speech marked a historic moment in the American Civil Rights movement.
The use of radio also meant that the rest of the world could learn from the changes that America was going through.
3. Development of the music industry
It’s difficult to imagine where the music industry might be if the radio had never been invented. Even with things like YouTube and streaming today, the radio is still the go-to source of information and entertainment for millions of people around the world.
Some radio stations like Capital FM have even started hosting their own music festivals. This means that the radio experience is connecting with the experiential, as well as the digital.
Radio is the concept that brought life to the music industry, and it continues to sustain it today. Many of the world’s most famous artists praise radio stations for the part they played in bringing new music to the world.
Before the internet, many of us may never have heard of unforgettable singers like Elvis without radio. Today, users still tune into the radio to discover new music and listen to the most popular tunes of the day.
Reviving retro: What’s next for radio?
Radio is the technology responsible for harnessing audio and spoken language and giving it greater volume. Before things like the internet existed, radio was a way for brands to achieve greater awareness.
It was where people could tune into news and entertainment that they couldn’t get anywhere else.
Now, even in the digital age, radio still has value to offer. For many people, radio provides an emotional and authentic source of information, unlike anything you can get online.
You don’t have to read and interpret the feelings of a writer through radio. The emotion of spoken language makes it easier for people to connect – even at a distance.
Radio broke down the barriers between people that newspapers couldn’t transcend. Without radio, we would never have had the mass communication solutions that we take for granted today.
However, it’s fair to say that radio is still going through a transformation. Like all other industries and technologies, radio has changed in recent years.
Today’s radio stations aren’t just competing against local teams anymore. These organisations are also competing against international broadcasters, podcasts, and streaming services.
Transformations in audience trends and technology are having an impact on radio. Some groups have seen a decline in their listeners. Fewer companies are choosing to place their ads on radio stations too, which means that bottom lines are suffering.
Fortunately, there are ways for radio to turn things around. By embracing digital, delivering streams to customers wherever they are, and expanding their opportunities radio stations can continue to grow.
As all other industries charge towards the digital revolution, radio will begin to move in the same direction too.
After all, one of the biggest components of the radio space today is the music industry. The music space has gone to digital for many good reasons. First, digital environments give consumers a better way to reach out to their target audience, wherever they might be.
Additionally, digital environments can also offer grater compensation to the creators of music for their work.
Though things are certainly changing, one crucial thing to remember is that there’s still a demand for information and entertainment delivered via human voice.
The rise of podcasts and streaming services are a clear sign of this popularity. Over 50% of US homes have a favourite podcast.
Even today, radio is still keeping people connected. Albeit, the communication is very different from when the first radio invented emerged. However, this need for human voice connections remains consistent.
Now that we’re in 2019, there are opportunities for radio stations to build on the relationships that their audiences need. Through niche marketing and community shows, there are plenty of ways to develop more immersive, engaging experiences through radio.
We’ve come a long way from the first radio invented
Hopefully, you now know the answers to questions like “when was the radio invented,” and who created the technology. However, you may also have realised that the radio invention was more significant to humankind and the world as we know it than you originally thought.
Radio isn’t just a way to waste time when you’re in the car on the way to work. It’s a concept that’s fundamentally changed how we communicate and interact as human beings.
Radio changed the world by altering how we communicate with each other and share ideas. It acted as a loyal companion in the war and has helped bring people together through some of the toughest times in human history.
Radio is the glue that brought the different parts of the globe together in times of suffering and evolution. Today, it continues to be a loyal partner in the transformation of the world. Every day, our radio tells us everything that’s happening around the world.
What’s more, it also gives us a much-needed break from reality with music and entertainment too.
It’s hard to believe that such a fundamental part of our lives today started as a multi-frequency platform for sending crucial signals. Before it became the thing that we know and love today, the radio was just a spectrum of ideas and theoretical science.
It was a frequency that people believed they could utilise for more convenient and engaging communication
Radio was where we first heard Britain declare war on Germany, and where Orson Welles fooled the public into believing in an alien invasion. We might be divided on questions like “what year was the radio invented?”
However, one thing we know for sure is that the concept of radio has changed the world forever.
Radio Fidelity: For the love of radio.