On August 20, we’ll be coming to you on all frequencies for National Radio Day. Radio was once one of the most incredible technologies on Earth – used by militaries and governments alike for navigation, news distribution, and more. It made news and music more accessible and brought us closer as a nation and a planet. Though today we rely more heavily on the internet and television for what we once relied on radio for, radio is far from dead and increasingly appreciated for its vintage and fantastic content.
History of National Radio Day
Though we typically attribute the invention of the radio to Gugliemo Marconi in the 1890s, the process spanned decades, with many scientists making small but significant contributions to the understanding of electromagnetic induction, electric conduction, and radio waves. For example, Heinrich Rudolph Hertz discovered radio waves in the 1880s, which helped prove a theory of electromagnetism put forth by James Clerk Maxwell in 1873.
It took quite a bit of time after the discovery of the radio for the technology to be used as communication – this was both because the inventors hadn’t yet realized the practical and life-changing applications of their development and because there were many more components needed to transmit and detect electrical waves. However, Marconi finally figured out a way to communicate with radio long-distance, and he takes the credit for the invention of what we think of as the radio today.
Public radio broadcasting has its own inventor and that’s Lee de Forest. He transmitted the first public radio broadcast, which featured the voices of opera stars, in 1910. De Forest’s Radio Telephone Company went on to manufacture the first commercial radios which could pick up a signal from miles away.
Obviously, radio was huge for music and changed the landscape of the industry immediately. News took to the radio, as well, and announcers could quickly hop on air to deliver the happenings of the day to a massive audience. The first radio news program was broadcast on August 31, 1920, out of Detroit – at a station that survives today as WWJ. In the early 20th century, radio also began to be used for broadcasting sports, aiding telephone services, and even navigating by airplane.
With the digital revolution and the wireless era, radio changed and adapted. Today, though radio is used for a variety of functions, it no longer holds its former top slot in entertainment and news media. With television, the internet, and more, it’s hard for radio to compete in that space – but people still love it, and it doesn’t look like radio is going away anytime soon. In fact, we appreciate radio even more these days for its old-school vintage.