Can you believe people once thought radio waves couldn’t travel more than half a mile? Now we know that the first radio transmission in 1900 is still traveling in space. Did you know that radio astronomers can now “hear” radio waves from the first stars that formed after the Big Bang? And one day, aliens in a faraway universe might hear popular radio shows from the Golden Age of Radio like The Guiding Light, The Lone Ranger and The Ed Sullivan Show. What will our cosmic friends think of our soap operas, dramas, adventure thrillers, and sports obsessions?
During the 1930s, radio ownership more than doubled. Today, there are 44,000 radio stations in the U.S., and 65 million millennials listen to the radio regularly. More than 240 million people 12 and older listen to the radio in the United States at least once a week. That’s 9 out of 10 Americans.
There is much debate about whether it was American inventor Nikola Tesla or Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi who created the radio. While Tesla may sound cooler –– ask Elon Musk, who named his wildly successful electric car company after him –– scientists say Marconi wins this round. The inventor received the patent rights for “radio” and won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1909.
Both inventors contributed greatly to radio even though they worked simultaneously and without consulting each other, but controversy arose when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that Marconi’s radio patents were invalid and awarded the patents for radio to Tesla. Regardless of who’s behind radio, we all reap the benefits today.