October 3, 2013

The History of Radio (in Brief)

Old Radio
Image via Wikipedia

It’s easy to know where to start the story of the radio. The discovery and experimentation with electromagnetic waves, combined with previous technology used for telephones, created the building blocks for radio waves and radio communication. What is more difficult is knowing how to proceed. The main issue is that a number of different people allegedly invented the radio.

There are various inventors who vie for this title, and they include James Clerk Maxwell, Heinrich Hertz, Guglielmo Marconi, J.C. Bose, and Nikola Tesla. The first two mentioned in this list are credited with inventing radio due to their discovery of foundational concepts which allowed radio to be invented. The third, fourth, and fifth of these names are inventors who actually worked at inventing functional radio systems.

While Tesla earned recognition as the original inventor, the truth is that he never completed a full working model. Marconi, on the other hand, created both “wireless telegraphs,” transmitting electronic signals over with radio waves, and then shortwave radio, successfully transmitting voice. Bose did some successful demonstrations in India at around the same time as Marconi demonstrating how radio waves could transmit data. Modern versions of the technology stem from both Marconi’s and Bose’s prototypes. It should also be noted that a portion of Marconi’s hardware was likely based on Bose’s.

After its initial introduction, radio waves pushed their boundaries further and further. In 1901, Marconi’s team succeeded in sending a signal all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. The technology was initially used as a better form of the telegraph for ships to use in case of emergencies. Many investors came out of the woodwork, seeing great potential, both military and otherwise, in the idea.

At this time, early radio listeners got receivers from the local Post Office, which was also where individuals could license transmitters. Since that time, radio has exploded as a means of communication. As of the time of this writing, more than thirty thousand radio stations exist, broadcasting to over a billion different radio sets across the globe.