First car radio weighed 15 kilos and was sinfully expensive
Get in, start the engine, turn on the music – for millions of drivers, the radio is part of everyday life behind the wheel. The car radio warns of traffic jams, entertains on long journeys and conveys a living room feeling in the car. 98 percent of all new cars and 97 percent of all used cars today have a radio on board, according to the latest DAT report from the automotive industry.
This year, the industry in Europe celebrates the 80th birthday of the car radio. birthday of the car radio. In 1932, the first model was installed in Germany. In the USA, Ford equipped one of its legendary T-models with a receiver ten years earlier.
Music at the wheel was an expensive and rare luxury in the early days. The first car radio in Europe – a 15-kilogram Blaupunkt tube set – cost a hefty 465 marks in 1932: a third of the purchase price for the whole car.
Car radio did not fit in the dashboard
The heavy black radio block with five glass bulb tubes received only on medium and long wave and was so large that it did not fit in the dashboard, as radio historian Wolfgang Soll describes it.
Today, the once simple radio receivers have developed into digital and networked mobile communication centers – with integrated navigation, links to the driver’s smartphone, and a large display that shows images from the rearview camera or the car’s surroundings when maneuvering.
Hands-free car kits, assistance systems and Internet access make driving more comfortable and safer. “The radio was the beginning, but today the applications in premium cars are far more extensive,” says Eckehart Rotter, press spokesman for the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA).
Networking now a matter of course
Users can select their preferred hotel on the Internet before a business trip and send the address to their car by e-mail. The navigation system in the vehicle guides you to this destination the next day – and even takes care of online booking while you’re on the road.
Today, assistance systems already support the driver in the event of an accident with an automatic or manual emergency call to an operations center through precise GPS location. In the future, direct car-to-car communication will make driving even safer: vehicles will be able to warn each other of unexpected obstacles. It works much faster than today’s traffic messages.
“Mobile and intelligent connectivity is also an increasingly important argument when buying a new car,” says Rotter. At the largest automotive trade show, the IAA in Frankfurt, a separate congress is now dedicated to automotive information technology.
1953 for the first time with station search
No one could have foreseen such a development when the first receiver was presented at the Berlin Radio Exhibition in 1932. After that, engineers concentrated mainly on making the radio smaller. In 1949, the receiver was successfully integrated into the dashboard.
Two years later, the manufacturer Becker presented station keys for the first time in the “Nuremberg” radio. The first radio with station search followed in 1953. At that time, 40 percent of cars in the Federal Republic of Germany already had a radio, according to a review by the Society for Entertainment and Communication Electronics (gfu).
The boom of the economic miracle made the car a valued companion of the Germans in everyday life – and the car radio was part of it. In 1958, a pull-out radio appeared that could be used with batteries on the beach, and Philips presented the first record player for cars – the model for future CD players. At the end of the 1960s came the first car cassette player and the world debut of stereo radio.
Retrofit radios hardly fit in the dashboard anymore
In the 80s came the car CD player and the marking of stations by the Radio Data System (RDS). The technology also helped improve accessibility for traffic announcements. Because of the risk of theft, it became fashionable to take the radio with you to restaurants or cafes.
Later, the industry developed electronic security codes. The first models for a navigation system followed in the mid-1990s. Blaupunkt introduced its “Berlin” model, the first car radio media center with a video-capable screen, navigation and interface to telephone and CD changer.
Today, the radio is playing a role in more and more of the car’s control functions, and the control centers are increasingly being marketed by the manufacturers themselves. In many cases, aftermarket radios barely fit in the dashboard.
Sales of aftermarket radios shrank from nearly four million in 1994 to the current 1.1 million, says gfu spokesman Roland Stehle: “The aftermarket has lost ground.” The industry has high hopes for DAB, the new digital technology launched in 2011+. It can already be heard in many places and is soon to guarantee noise- and crackle-free reception nationwide.