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Age of Radio

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The Age of the Radio Radio has always been one of the most powerful media sources available. It goes without saying that it is popular due to the fact that the necessary equipment, radio transmitter and receiver. Radio was the start to worldwide communication. There were many inventors to thank for the radio. In 1860, James Maxwell predicted the existence of radio waves (Bellis). James Maxwell formulated a set of equations, which explained light as one form of electromagnetic radiation and predicted that there should be many other forms, invisible to the human eye. Heinrich Hertz demonstrated that rapid variations of electric current could be projected into space (Bellis). Fortunately, other scientist and engineers saw the radio spectrum not as a curiosity but as a tool for a new kind of communication. Guglielmo Macroni proved the feasibility of radio communication. In 1895, Macroni sent the first radio signal. With further alterations, Macroni found a way for ships to talk to each other using Morse code. The next big step was finding a way to manipulate radio waves so they could carry more than dots and dashes. Switching from pulses to continuous waves provided the key. Reginald Fessenden invented a way to transmit voice by altering the intensity of waves, thus creating AM radio. Reginald Fessenden noticed that by varying wave frequency instead of amplitude, stations could avoid the interference that often corrupted AM transmissions. The result was frequency modulation or FM radio. Nikola Tesla is the only person to file a patent on radio technology (White). So Nikola Tesla is credited with being the creator of radio technology. Before the radio, people would visit with neighbors to find common forms of entertainment. The radio was a new source of entertainment. You might think the radio is a gadget you listen to, but it also means something else. Radio means sending energy with waves. In other words, it's a method of transmitting electrical energy from one place to another without using any kind of direct, wired connection. That's why it's often called wireless. The equipment that sends out a radio wave is known as a transmitter; the radio wave sent by a transmitter speeds through the air and completes its journey, when it reaches a second piece of equipment called a receiver. When you extend the antenna on a radio receiver, it snatches some of the electromagnetic energy passing by. Tune the radio into a station and an electronic circuit inside the radio selects only the program you want from all those that are broadcasting. The electromagnetic energy, which is a mixture of electricity and magnetism, travels past you in waves like those on the surface of the ocean. These are called radio waves. Like ocean waves, radio waves have a certain speed, length, and frequency. The wavelength is the distance between one crest to the next, while the frequency is the number of waves that arrive each second. When your radio sits on a bookshelf trying to catch waves coming into your home, it's a bit like you standing by the beach watching the breakers rolling in. Radio waves are much faster, longer, and more frequent than ocean waves. Their wavelength is typically hundreds of meters so that's the distance between one wave crest to the next. Radio waves travel fast like at the speed of light (Gugliotta, 2007). The radio hobby grew during the decade before World War 1. The public had ability to listening in to what was happening (Radio, 2012). Very few people heard these early broadcasts because the only available receivers were those handmade by radio enthusiasts. In 1917, federal government restrictions forced most radio transmitters off the air for the rest of World War 1 (Radio, 2012). These restrictions put a delay on the radio booming. Slowly, after the war American stations took to the air. In 1922, more than 550 new stations crowded onto a few available frequencies to build on radio’s appeal across the country (Radio, 2012). Without anyone to pay for the operations for the radio, many radio stations quickly disappeared. Magazines, books, and even movies included references to the radio. With the radio becoming more popular, the question what to place on the air remained to be seen. Early broadcasts were characterized by to attractions, the warmth of a human voice and any type of music. Usually the human voice was a male. All the music had to be live because of poor quality recordings. The height of the American radio was from 1930 to 1955 (Radio, 2012). Dramatic radio thrived and was a part of American culture. Radio was established as an advertising source. As radio grew, daytime shows such as soap operas and children’s programs developed. Many advertisers made themselves known by combining their name with the name of the star or the title of a program. Thus changing the way radio stations were funded. With these radio changes, advertising and other forms of communication have made great advancements. In turn, radio has changed the world people live in and how people view it. The first Radio, XM radio, HD radio, internet streaming, Podcasts, and radio company growth are all shaping the America's youth and their culture (Radio, 2012). Radio and radio technology has shaped American culture for many decades and many more to come. Today, radio is transmitted using a radio transmitter, communication links, and a receiver. Transmitters can be comprised of banks of computers with modems that change words, pictures, data, or sounds into electrical signals and then send them to a receiver. Once the transmission is complete, the receiver converts the signals back into their original state (Gugliotta, 2007). The communication links between the transmitter and receiver can either be a direct link with cables, or radio waves transmitted through satellite. A brand new type of commercial free radio is beginning to sweep across the nation, XM satellite radio. XM satellite radio is transmitted directly to your car or home receiver from a satellite, and is associated with no local terrestrial station and uses digital signals, as opposed to radio waves, to transmit signals. XM radio was invented in 2001 and is the largest satellite radio company in the world (Radio, 2012). With XM radio, the consumer is able to get many different channels of music, news, sports, and talk shows without any interruptions or commercials. Consumers can listen to their favorite programming anytime during the day or night and always get the information they need. Consumers are informed continually about what goes on in their world in many different aspects. Another radio system that is relatively new and just beginning to gain some popularity is HD radio, or high definition radio. HD radio is a totally different radio receiver that picks up different signals than a normal stock radio. These new signals produce extra channels, crisper reception, text information, and the ability to tag songs to use on your computer. The difference between XM and HD radio is that HD radio is still broadcasted with the consumer's local FM and AM channels (Radio, 2012). Thanks to HD radio, local information can get to the consumer in a crisp, clean fashion and contain extra benefits that standard radio does not. Another new form of radio that is beginning to emerge is internet streaming. Internet streaming is not listening to radio in the car or by a radio system, but in fact by a personal computer. Since the internet is perhaps the most widely used information resource in the world, radio stations have made it possible for their listeners to consume their live broadcasting through their station's website. To gain popularity, a website must cover all niches of music and make it possible for the user to create a custom list of music that will appeal to their personal taste. Rebroadcasting doesn't always meet the needs of the user. These pure-play radio systems have taken advertising a step further, from commercials on the radio now to banners online (Radio, 2012). These advertising markets expand each year as more and more radio websites are being published. Radio companies have to learn to deal with new technology or they will be forever forgotten. Many of today's radio companies have taken the new technology and changed it into a new form of profit for advertising and promotion. Radio companies have begun to expand their horizons from not just normal FM/AM radio, but now to the other newer forms of radio. These changes will either make or break certain small radio companies, while the other large companies will prosper greatly. Radio and radio technology has helped shaped American culture for many decades and many more to come. Radio has played a big role in America and will continue to do so. Some people are beginning to say that the new radio is the internet, but radio stations will still be around for a very long time. FM/AM radio, XM radio, HD radio, Internet streaming, and podcasting are all doing their part in the evolution of radio technology. The media is one thing that America focuses on greatly, and radio is a big part of this media. People will always need to be informed on current events and that will never change. Even though broadcast methods of the past are quickly becoming more obsolete, radio will always be evolving in to something greater.


Bellis, M. (n.d.). The invention of radio. Retrieved January 3, 2012, from Gugliotta, G. (2007, May 31). How radio changed everything. Discover Magazine. Retrieved on January 3, 2012 from

Radio. (2012). In Encyclopaedia britannica. Retrieved from White, T. H. (n.d.). United States early radio history. Retrieved January 3, 2012, from

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