By: Amber Viljoen
Radio is such an amazing and interesting medium and so is the history of radio. In this piece we will delve deeper into radio, and how it has changed the world.


Radio is part of our daily life. We probably grew up with it, and in the olden days, radio was all that there was. Encyclopaedia Britannica (Sterling & Skretvedt, 2023) explains that radio is a form of mass media. It is a form of communication which travels through radio waves. It further explains that radio consists of news, music, and programming, and its purpose is to inform and entertain of course. Radio also falls under broadcasting along with television.


PBS (2023) explains that the first step was to discover electromagnetic waves, and the first person to do this was Hans Christian Oersted. In 1820 he realized that this was created by a current running through a wire. It was then later confirmed through the principle of electromagnetic induction by Michael Faraday.

However, you must be thinking, if it travels through a wire, why can I pick it up “wirelessly” in my car? Well… That is how step 2 started. PBS further explains that an experimental physics professor at Cambridge University, James Clerk Maxwell suggested in a published work that “electromagnetic currents could be perceived at a distance” in 1864. It was later tested by Heinrich Hertz, a German physicist. And yes, it was successful.

The experiment took the interest of an Italian inventor, Guglielmo Marconi. Like most inventions, Marconi tested it in his backyard. Then he showed it to the outside world. PBS explains that in September of 1899, he telegraphed the America Cup yacht racing results, and he did this on a ship to land in New York. Radio transmission, believe it or not, was more like Morse code with dots and dashes. However, that was changed by Canadian physicist Reginald Fessenden when he started sending long-distance transmissions in 1906.

However, radio has many kinds of components and eventually a wireless transmitter was created by Charles Herrold around 1908 (Sterling & Skretvedt, 2023) and he added a little something extra, voices, programs, and music. It started small, but this amazing invention soon took over the world. People had to listen with headphones because speakers didn’t exist yet. According to Sterling & Skretvedt, (2023), a new interest in radio was created after WW1 and the first scheduled radio broadcast started in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Since then, radio has taken over the world one broadcast at a time. However, as the song by The Buggles goes,” Video killed the radio star”. With the rise of the television and film industry radio did take a hit. But all hope is not lost. An interest in radio will always stay and the internet gave the radio industry a massive jump with online streaming and content on demand.

Radio will always have its special place, offering people many perks that video cannot. Radio has had such a long and interesting journey, from electromagnetic waves to today where you can pick up any station wherever you are.


PBS. 2023. The Development of Radio
Date of access: 19 Oct. 2023.
Sterling, C.H. & Skretvedt, R. 2023. Radio. In: Encyclopedia Britannica
Date of access: 19 Oct. 2023.
"Changing the atmosphere"
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