History of the car radio

Discussion in 'The GatorTail Pub' started by kurt_borglum, Feb 9, 2014.

  1. kurt_borglum

    kurt_borglum VIP Member

    Dec 18, 2007
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    I found this interesting. Thought some of you might as well.


    Seems like cars have always had radios,

    but they didn't.

    Here's the story:One evening, in 1929,

    two young men named

    William Lear and Elmer Wavering
    drove their girlfriends to a lookout point high above the

    Mississippi River town of Quincy, Illinois, to watch the sunset.

    It was a romantic night to be sure,

    but one of the women observed that
    it would be even nicer if they could listen to music in the car.

    Lear and Wavering liked the idea. Both men had tinkered with radios (Lear served as a radio operator in

    the U.S. Navy during World War I)

    and it wasn't long before they were
    taking apart a home radio and

    trying to get it to work in a car.

    But it wasn't easy: automobiles have ignition switches, generators, spark plugs, and other electrical

    equipment that generate noisy static interference,making it nearly impossible to listen to the radio when the engine was running.

    One by one, Lear and Wavering identified and eliminated each source of electrical interference. When they finally got their radio to work, they took it to a radio convention

    in Chicago.

    There they met PaulGalvin, owner of Galvin Manufacturing Corporation.

    He made a product called a

    "battery eliminator", a device that allowed battery-powered radios to

    run on household AC current.

    But as more homes were wired for electricity, more radio manufacturers made AC-powered radios.

    Galvin needed a new product to manufacture. When he met Lear and Wavering at the radio convention,

    he found it. He believed that
    mass-produced, affordable car

    radios had the potential to become

    a huge business.Lear and Wavering set up shop in Galvin's factory, and when they perfected their first radio, they installed it in his Studebaker.

    Then Galvin went to a local banker

    to apply for a loan. Thinking it

    might sweeten the deal,

    he had his men install a radio in

    the banker's Packard.

    Good idea, but it didn't work –

    Half an hour after the installation,

    the banker's Packard caught on fire. (They didn't get the loan.)

    Galvin didn't give up.

    He drove his Studebaker nearly

    800 miles to Atlantic City to show

    off the radio at the

    1930 Radio Manufacturers

    Association convention.

    Too broke to afford a booth, he parked the car outside the convention hall and cranked up the radio so that
    passing conventioneers could hear it.

    That idea worked -- He got enough orders to put the radio into production.


    That first production model was

    called the 5T71.

    Galvin decided he needed to come up with something a little catchier.

    In those days many companies in the phonograph and radio businesses used the suffix "ola" for their names -
    Radiola, Columbiola, and Victrola

    were three of the biggest.

    Galvin decided to do the same thing, and since his radio was intended for use in a motor vehicle, he decided to call it theMotorola.

    But even with the name change,

    the radio still had problems:

    When Motorola went on sale in 1930, it cost about $110 uninstalled, at a time when you could buy a brand-new car for $650, and the country was sliding into the Great Depression.

    (By that measure, a radio for a new car would cost about $3,000 today.)

    In 1930, it took two men several days

    to put in a car radio --

    The dashboard had to be taken

    apart so that the receiver and a

    single speaker could be installed,

    and the ceiling had to be cut open

    to install the antenna.

    These early radios ran on their own batteries, not on the car battery,

    so holes had to be cut into the floorboard to accommodate them.

    The installation manual had eight complete diagrams and 28 pages of instructions. Selling complicated car
    radios that cost 20 percent of the

    price of a brand-new car wouldn't

    have been easy in the best of
    times, let alone during the Great Depression –

    Galvin lost money in 1930 and struggled for a couple of years after that. But things picked up in 1933 when Ford began offering Motorola's pre-installed at the factory.

    In 1934 they got another boost when Galvin struck a deal with

    B.F. Goodrich tire company
    to sell and install them in its chain

    of tire stores.

    By then the price of the radio, with installation included, had dropped to $55. The Motorola car radio was off and running.

    (The name of the company would be officially changed from

    Galvin Manufacturing to

    "Motorola" in 1947.)

    In the meantime, Galvin continued to develop new uses for car radios.

    In 1936, the same year that it introduced push-button tuning,

    it also introduced the Motorola Police Cruiser, a standard car radio that was factory preset to a single frequency to pick up police broadcasts.

    In 1940 he developed the first

    handheld two-way radio

    -- The Handy-Talkie –

    for the U. S. Army.A lot of the communications
    technologies that we take for granted today were born in Motorola labs in the years that followed World War II.

    In 1947 they came out with the first television forunder $200.

    In 1956 the company introduced the world's first pager; in 1969 came the radio and television equipment that was used to televise Neil Armstrong's first steps on the Moon.

    In 1973 it invented the world's first handheld cellular phone.

    Today Motorola is one of the largest cell phone manufacturers in the world.

    And it all started with the car radio.


    the two men who installed the first radio in Paul Galvin's car?

    Elmer Wavering and William Lear, ended up taking very different
    paths in life.

    Wavering stayed with Motorola.

    In the 1950's he helped change the automobile experience again when

    he developed the first automotive
    alternator, replacing inefficient and unreliable generators. The invention lead to such luxuries as power windows, power seats, and, eventually,
    air-conditioning.Lear also continued inventing.

    He holds more than 150 patents. Remember eight-track tape players? Lear invented that.

    But what he's really famous for are

    his contributions to the field of aviation. He invented radio direction finders for planes, aided in the invention of the autopilot,

    designed the first fully automatic
    aircraft landing system,

    and in 1963 introduced his
    most famous invention of all,

    the Lear Jet,

    the world's first mass-produced, affordable business jet.

    (Not bad for a guy who dropped out of school after the eighth grade.)

    Sometimes it is fun to find out how some of the

    many things that we take for granted actually

    came into being!


    It all started with a woman's suggestion!!
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  2. gatorjjh

    gatorjjh BS Jm, UF Class of '69 Premium Member

    Apr 3, 2007
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    Irvine, Fl
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    great post, thanks Kurt
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  3. jewood592

    jewood592 Premium Member

    Jan 3, 2010
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    Thats awesome! I remember when the history channel used to show educational things like this instaed of hillbillies bobbing for turds or whatever they show these days.
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  4. Gatorrick22

    Gatorrick22 Well-Known Member

    Apr 3, 2007
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    They still show some good stuff, just not as much as they used to.
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  5. toon66

    toon66 VIP Member

    Aug 26, 2007
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    Believe, find a way and be persistent. I am on the verge of leaving a successful 20 yr career and starting a new business in a completely unrelated field. I love stories like this. They inspire me. Thanks for posting!
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  6. Spurffelbow833

    Spurffelbow833 Premium Member

    Jan 9, 2009
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    Great story. I love radio and anything I can get my hands on about it. I've long believed that radio was the greatest invention of all time and television was the worst.
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