Ruling the airwaves

Guglielmo Marconi  

You may think a radio is old fashioned and out of date but it’s an example of technology that’s never gone out of use. Take a look at how it came to be what it is today.

The radio was one of the first modes of ‘wireless’ communication. The term ‘radio’ actually refers to the technology of using radio waves to carry information but, over time, began to be applied to the device itself. The technology for the electric telegraph and telephone, which were developed earlier, helped develop the radio.

Early days

The existence of radio waves was predicted by the theories of electromagnetic radiation, formulated by Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell in the 1860s.

In 1886, German physicist Heinrich Rudolph Hertz proved that the earth had rapid variations of electric current that could be projected into space in the form of radio waves. The unit of frequency was named the ‘hertz’ (Hz) in his honour.

Hertz’s studies led a young Italian named Gugliemo Marconi to experiment and prove that communication with radio waves was possible in 1894. Over time, he developed his findings and created the first wireless telegraph system and is often credited as the inventor of the radio.

Initially, radio was used to maintain contact between ships at sea. While it could not transmit actual speech, the Morse code was used to signal between ships and radio stations on land.

Let there be sound

Till around the early 1900s, wireless broacasts were limited to coded dots and dashes. In 1906, Canadian-born physicist Reginald Fessenden sent the first long-distance transmission of human voice and music from his station in Massachusetts, the U.S., thereby setting the stage for the commercial voice broadcasts that we are familiar with. Over time, other developments, like developing FM channels, made the radio the force it is today. In 1920, KDKA (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) became the first licensed commercial broadcasting station in the U.S. and broacast the presidential elections as its inaugural show.

In India

Radio broadcasting here began in 1923 with programmes run the Bombay Presidency Radio Club. All India Radio or Akashvani, India’s national radio broadcaster, was established in 1930. At independence, the network had just six stations: Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Madras, Lucknow, and Tiruchirappalli. In 2018, this had grown to over 1000 private and government-owned FM stations across India.

Radio trivia:

- The word ‘broadcasting’, referring to radio transmissions, was originally an agricultural term for the wide scattering of seeds.

- The Eiffel Tower was supposed to be scrapped after 20 years of construction. It only survived because the military started using it as a radio tower, intercepting crucial military transmissions during WWI and proved to be extremely useful for communication purposes.

- One of the reasons why World Radio Day is celebrated is because the radio is the mass media that reaches the widest audience in the world. It is also a low-cost communication tool while also being a powerful communication medium. Despite it being over 100 years old, it is still very popular.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 7:59:50 PM |

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