The History of Car Radio

You undoubted know that cars didn’t always have audio systems but did you know when the first appeared. Playing the raido in a car was absolutely a sensation when it first occurred. Here’s a little background on the subject.

car audio systemsImage by Brian Hoecht

In 1901, Guglielmo Marconi, an Italian electrical engineer and inventor, demonstrated the first long-distance radio transmission. This radio could not receive sound but received morse code data.

Soon, AM radio stations started to broadcast audio across the United States and owning a “radio” was an expensive but necessary thing for most Americans.

In 1930 that the Galvin Corporation introduced a commercial car radio, called the “Motorola model 5T71.” As we learned from an article on the Ken Garff Dodge HQ site,this radio could be installed in many automobiles and a driver paid roughly $130 (or in today’s dollars, about $1800).  A very expensive luxury.

Late 1950s and Early 1960s – This was when FM broadcastingbegan. FM radio was better for music and thus it was during this time that car dealers started selling cars with radios equipped with both AM and FM bands.

1970s — This is when the first cassette tape head unit was placed into a car. This type of car playback unit survived in cars for quite a while and became a popular, robust audio media.

1980s – Less than a decade after people could start using cassette tape units in their car, the audio CD appeared. It took a while for car manufacturers to equip many of their vehicles with CD players, and that process didn’t really happen until the late 1990’s. In fact, for a little both audio tapes and CD player co-existed on the market.

The 1980s is also when cars began to come with multichannel audio systems that had separate speakers on the driver’s side, passenger’s side and on the rear deck. Cars were mirroring home entertainment systems!

2010s —This is when internet radio started to become popular. Some vehicle head units can now play music fron the cloud, whilst others can connect to satellite radio stations via Pandora, iHeartRadio or Aha.

Today, many car audio systems come with auxiliary audio inputs. These let drivers hook up digital music with devices like smartphones and MP3 players. It is also possible to get a car that offer USB and Bluetooth capability that allow for syncing of nearly any portable audio device to a car’s audio system.

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