The History of Radio

Early beginnings                                                                                             

Radio, like any other great invention, has begginings submerged in politics. Nikola Tesla, who invented the basic idea didn’t get recognition for his idea until 1943, 28 years after he first went to court to claim his right as the actual inventor of the radio. Gugliemo Marconi was, until then, known as the ‘inventor of radio’.

Marconi was great in his own right, he saw the potential radio had as a medium and went on to transform it from its basic model into what we have now. From introducing voice over air in 1921 to shortwave in 1922, Marconi however had also been accused of copying other peoples designs and as we can already tell from his aforementioned altercation with Tesla we couldn’t put it past him. Earlier Indian scientist J.C. Bose had demonstrated the radio transmission in 1896 in Calcutta in front of the British Governor General. He had also solved the problem of ‘hertz’ making it easier to penetrate walls mountains or water.

Marconi was present in the meeting of the Royal Society and it is thought that he stole the notebook of Bose that included the drawing of the ‘Mercuri Coherer with a telephone detector’. Marconi’s Coherer, which he used in 1901, was the exact copy of that of Bose. Apparently Marconi was unable to explain how he got to the design. He said that an Italian Navy engineer called Solari had developed it, but Solari later denied it. Marconi then said that Italian Professor Timasina did, which later was exposed as a lie by another Italian professor, Angelo Banti, who claimed that the design was invented by signalman Paolo Castelli.

Marconi its seemed was very self seeking, there was another scientist, Nathan B. Stubblefield, a farmer from Murray, Kentucky, made a voice transmission four years before Marconi transmitted radio signals. Even Bose wasn’t as self seeking as he was! Bose did not apply for a patent on his design because he believed in the free flow of inventions in science! Later though,  under pressure from American friends, he applied for the patent in September 1901. He was awarded the US patent for the invention of the radio in 1904. By that time Marconi had received his patent and international recognition.

Lets go back a little bit shall we? As we trace the history of the radio. Its important to remember that radio was initially created as a form of communication – telegraph messages- which were then called wireless telegraphs. Its also very important considering the subject matter to remember that radio as a form of communication and radio as media is two different things.  Now lets talk about the history of Radio as media.

Radio was the first ‘modern’ media form, and had a huge impact on the history of the 20th century. For the first time information could be broadcast… it could be received by anyone with the right equipment, without wires and the birth of radio really ushered in the era of mass communications. Many people likened the explosion of radio in the 1920s to what is happening with the internet today .

                                      Humorous accolades and fun Trivia

  • 1/4 of media use in a day is to radio; 1 out of 6 minutes spent w/ESPN done through radio.
  • iPod/mp3 players have no impact on time spent listening to radio for 8 in 10 consumers
  • Radio has a higher percent of adults 25-54 using it from 5am-5pm than any other media
  • The News/Talk format captures nearly half of all public radio listening
  • All Sports stations attract a far higher percentage of male listeners (almost 87%) than any other radio format
  • 63% of consumers turn to radio first over internet, television, and newspapers to learn about new music


Where we are now

Today, there are more than 33,000 radio stations around the world, with more than 12,000 in the US alone. Worldwide there are more than 2 billion radio sets in use, or about one radio for every 3 persons; proof that video never killed the radio star.


The above was written for a journalism class at USIU


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