What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” 100 years of the car radio
From CD players to Subwoofers, the radio and the automobile have gone hand in hand for decades.
The car leasing experts at LeaseCar.uk begin 2022 by celebrating 100 years since the first car was fitted with a radio - spawning an lucrative industry and technologies which have just kept evolving.
It was in 1922 the Chevrolet Motor Company carried out a successful experiment to see if it could work - and it did.
Radio Times in New York wrote: “With a car equipped in this fashion, it is possible for a family to drive anywhere within 100 miles or so of a broadcasting station and picnic while the radio in their car amuses or instructs them with music, sermons or wireless telegraphy. Education and entertainment can be transported to wherever people congregate.”
A spokesman for LeaseCar.uk said: “It seems almost unheard of now to think of a car without a music system, but the origins had to begin somewhere. 1922 is a significant year which saw the first successful trial of a car radio.
“In the early days, there were suggestions from some inventors that vehicles could be fitted with miniature telephone poles at each of the four corners of the car with antennas strung in between. The first design took the technology further - and things have never looked back.”
Here’s a brief history of the car radio we know and love today:
1922 - Chevrolet’s car radio was ground-breaking but also cumbersome. It took up a lot of space where the passenger was meant to sit, and featured large batteries placed under the front seat and big speakers behind the back seat.
1930s - Paul Galvin, an engineer, found a way to make car radios more affordable and therefore more popular. He founded a company called Motorola which became a successful early manufacturer of in car radios.
1940s - by 1946, an estimated nine million cars had radios fitted. There had been some concerns that sound systems could distract drivers and cause accidents, but those backing car radios said they were useful in emergencies or in the event of bad weather.
1950s - Chrysler developed an in-dash hi-fi phonograph player
1960s - In 1963, FM car radios were introduced for the first time. it was estimated that 60 per cent of cars now had radios fitted. Manufacturers had long since developed push button technology to keep driver eyes on the road to make radio safer.
1970s - There was a move away from in-built radios as demand grew among consumers to develop their own unique sound system, so pull-out cassette receivers became fashionable.
1980s - Pioneer produced the world’s first car CD player, the CDX-1 which boosted durability and sound quality when unveiled in 1984.
1990s - Motorists were now able to switch between up to ten CDs at a time with the development of multi-disc CD changers.
LeaseCar.uk says technology during the early part of the new Millennium saw the advent of satellite radio, streaming services and MP3 docking stations as manufacturers have sought to keep pace with the times for the benefit of motorists and their passengers.
There are now advances in digital technology to help sync your mobile phone apps with your car’s digital system to advance hands-free control and integrated smartphone technology. Who knows what the future will hold as we enter the next century of car radios?