The car radio turns 90 this year. Here’s how it all came about.

[This was my column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC]

When you get into a car, what’s the first thing you do after fastening your seatbelt? You look for some entertainment. And for 90 years, we’ve been reaching for the radio for our mobile music, news, sports, and entertainment.

Listening to the radio (or some other form of audio entertainment) is one of the few things we can do while driving. No wonder in-vehicle listening is so important to the industry.

Here’s the backstory of that trusty thing in your dashboard.

Radio in the car is almost as old as the automobile itself. As far back as 1904, American inventor Lee DeForest (who later came up with the audion tube, which made radio practical) was demonstrating how this technology could be used in cars when he showed up in St. Louis at the Louisana Purchase Exposition. DeForest was a bit ahead of his time; no one had successfully figured out how to broadcast anything but morse code to this point. It would be another half-decade before speech and music could be transmitted wirelessly and another ten years before someone figured out how to get a radio to work in the car.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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