The History of the Car Radio

This article was suggested by homeschooler: Dylan

The History of the Car Radio

Written by Carly Hallman

It’s an almost universal experience: People get in the car and turn on their favorite music. But the first car radio wasn’t sold until Chevrolet offered one as an option in 1922. And at first, radios in cars weren’t a popular feature. In 1930, laws were proposed in Massachusetts and Missouri that would ban automobile radios, and a poll in 1934 found that 56% of people thought car radios were a dangerous distraction. Motorola kept refining the idea, though, and designed a more attractive and better-functioning radio. By 1946, around nine million cars had a radio installed in them. The technology improved over time, and by 1963, more than half of all cars driven in America had a radio in them.

Using Their Heads

head unit is like the motherboard of a car’s audio system. Originally, head units only controlled the radio, but over time, they were used to control everything from 8-tracks to CDs. Today’s head units incorporate touchscreens and smartphone integration. The size of the head unit is dictated by the size and design of the car’s console and the size of the front faceplate of the stereo system. Most head units are a size 1DIN or 2DIN; DIN is an acronym for a German company, Deutsches Institut fur Normung.

American Ingenuity

Lee de Forest invented the vacuum tube, which made radios possible. In 1904, he gave a demonstration of his invention at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, and afterward, he was nicknamed the “Father of Radio.” It wasn’t until 1922 when Chevrolet put a Westinghouse radio into a car. But the first successful commercial automobile radio is considered by most experts to be the Motorola 5T71, which was released in 1930.

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