Each year on August 20th, National Radio Day recognizes the great invention of the radio. Celebrate the news, information, music, and stories carried across the airwaves.
Several inventors had a part in the invention of the radio in the late 1800s. Amazingly, not just one person can be credited with its beginning. Each component developed through invention and discovery. As these technologies converged, the radio came to life.
In the paragraphs that follow, a noted international effort contributed to the conception of the radio. In Germany, the research of Heinrich Hertz proved electricity could be transmitted wirelessly. Elsewhere, the multiple patents of the prolific inventor Nikola Tesla provided the radio with the Tesla coil. Born in Croatia, Tesla also contributed many patents involving alternating current advancing the science and production of numerous inventions. When it comes to the first commercially available wireless, Italian, Guglielmo Marconi receives the honor.
While entertainment and music fill the airwaves today, they were not the radio’s first functions. First, the wireless radio served the military. It also provided a regular public service role. Much like the dits and dots of a telegram, the wireless transmitted information. On board the Titanic at the time of its sinking, a Marconi wireless broadcast the ship’s distress signal. However, in 1906, the first radio broadcast of voice and music purely for entertainment purposes aired. Reginald Fessenden transmitted the program from Brant Rock, Massachusetts for the general public to hear. The Canadian born scientist would go on to many more successes in his lifetime.
An American contributor to the radio, Lee de Forest invented the Audion vacuum. This invention made live broadcasting possible. Born inIowain 1873, de Forest would become the chief scientist for the first U.S. radio firm, American Wireless Telephone, and Telegraph.
As wireless came alive, the first broadcast stations began airing programs in the 1920s. News and world events were the first items over the airwaves.
- Radio ownership grew. In 1931, two out of five homes owned a radio. By 1938, four out of five owned a radio.
- According to FCC statistics, at the end of 2012, there were more than 15,000 licensed broadcast radio stations in the U.S.
- On October 1, 1999, the first satellite radio broadcast occurred. Worldspace aired the broadcast in Africa.