The Early Years of Radio Technology

The invention of radio is perhaps one of the most important innovations of the last century. Not only did the radio become a focal point of entertainment, it was a news source, an information source, and even a source of community involvement. Although you may think of radio as being something that started in the 1900’s, you may be surprised to learn that, like so many things in the 20th Century, radio technology was a product of experimentation and discovery in the 1800’s. A dentist in America named Mahlon Loomis exhibited a process called “wireless telegraphy” by connecting two kites to each other without wires, making one move by the force of the other. This was the first time that wireless aerial communication was recorded in history. Radio waves themselves were predicted to exist by James Clerk Maxwell, a physicist from Scotland, in the 1860’s. Later that decade, Heinrich Rudolph Hertz of Germany showed that fast changes in electrical current were able to be transmitted through the air in a way that mimicked heat and light. By the end of the 19th century, Guglielmo Marconi (an inventor from Italy) demonstrated that radio communication was possible. The first radio signal was transmitted and received by Marconi in the year 1895 in Italy. In 1899, he was able to successfully send a wireless transmission straight over the English Channel. In 1902, the first transatlantic radiotelegraph message was sent and received in Newfoundland (sent from England). 1901 was the first year when wireless communication really started gaining momentum. It was set up and used for telegraphs being sent between five Hawaiian Islands that year, as well as used by the Navy for homing pigeons and visual signals. It would be a couple more decades before radio would really begin to be used as a source of entertainment. The first radio news broadcast was sent in August 1920 from a station in Detroit, MI called “8MK.” A station in Buenos Aires broadcast opera music in August 1920. A few months later, in October 1920, Union College in New York started a college radio station, the first ever, in fact. A station called “2ADD” that same month broadcast a few concerts on a Thursday night (that could be heard from up to 100 miles away). It is believed that this was the first entertainment broadcast in the US. In Writtle, England at the Marconi Research Centre in 1922, regular radio broadcasts began airing. In the 1920’s, radio technology was also used to broadcast pictures (early television). FM radio was invented in the 1930s by amateur radio station operators, but FM stereo broadcasting would not become the norm until the 1960’s. Color television went into regular broadcasting in the early 1960’s. TELSTAR (the first radio communication satellite) was set up in 1963. LORAN radio navigation system was the first of its kind, which started in the 1970s, followed by GPS technology launched in 1987. Today, there are countless applications of radio technology, including wireless internet found in routers and wi-fi hotspots. According to predictions by researchers, internet radio is poised to replace both terrestrial (AM/FM) radio and satellite radio by 2020. The advent of Wi-Max or other widespread broadband wireless internet (“internet everywhere”) could impact the proliferation of many new radio wave based and internet based technologies and entertainment sources. Many major US cities are already experimenting with blanketing their entire city with internet access carried by radio frequency. Published at:

Why is FM Radio Using Analog Technology?

Radio is one of the oldest technologies in the world. It is used in all the regions of the world with insignificant differences in frequency modulation but the core principle of its technology remains the same. FM radio has become a part of mobile sets today which highlights its high use in our daily lives. However, it is unfortunate to mention that despite having consistent changes in technology all around us in every field and every invention, even in those which came after the radio, like broadcasting has moved from analog to digital in television; it has not had any specific worth mentioning technology up-gradation. The question that pops up now is; why has radio not been upgraded to digital technology? The answer lies in the fact that we use radio spectrum for digital video broadcasting in television. These radio frequency spectra are used to transmit digital multiplex, which is a bundle of various television channels and other services by using 6-8 MHZ of bandwidth. Obviously, in terms of usage, digital broadcasting in television is making more efficient use of radio frequency spectrum as compared to analog broadcasting, which used the same bandwidth to broadcast only one program. This justifies the change in technology. At this important to mention that radio technology can be moved from analog to digital but it will take years to switch and grand scale technological preparations to make it happen. To make analog FM switch to digital broadcasting, there are various aspects of technology that should be catered to. For instance, the new technology should offer great sound quality, excellent reception and wider capacity to broadcast more radio channels which in turn will make more efficient use of radio spectrum. And there are many good quality sound devices, having good reception sound broadcasting technologies available today for instance, T-DAB, DRM+, DVB-T, DRM and DVB-T2; but none is good enough to replace the analog radio broadcasting and match to its performance. FM radio employs 250 kHz bandwidth with spacing of 100 and 200 kHz, varying as per the region. It is because of this changed combination of bandwidth and spacing that switching from analog to digital in radio broadcasting would be difficult. Hence, we have to remain contented with the analog radio transmission unless the sophistication of the technology rises! It should be realized that desiring a change or up-gradation in technology does not only require determination, but there are many other technical aspects, which dictate the ability of technology to get upgraded. Along with huge finances, consistent efforts spread over a long period of time and undying determination, you have to have a reality check. There is no point in getting more sophisticated technology if it makes operations more difficult to handle, rather than making them easy. Same is the case with radio technology; we surely want to have digital broadcasting but with the current level of technology, it will not be wise to switch from analog to digital. Published at: