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Home / Business News / Car radio celebrates 75th birthday

Car radio celebrates 75th birthday

The 15 kg gadget had to be stored in the car where it could not be seen and the remote control was mounted near the steering wheel.

business Updated: Sep 06, 2007, 10:11 IST
DPA/Heiko Haupt
DPA/Heiko Haupt

Almost every new car today is equipped with a radio and CD player, a far cry from the car radio unveiled at a Berlin exhibition on August 19, 1932.

Developed by Blaupunkt, the AS 5 even had remote control fitted to the steering wheel. But this was a necessity at the time as it was so large that it didn't fit into the dashboard, according to Blaupunkt spokesman Joachim Siedler.

The 15 kg gadget had to be stored in the car where it could not be seen and the remote control was mounted near the steering wheel.

But Blaupunkt was not the first manufacturer to come out with a car radio. A Model T-Ford was fitted with a radio 85 years ago in the US and the first industrially produced radio came out 80 years ago in Philadelphia and was called Philco Transitone.

These first radios were real luxury items at the time. "The Blaupunkt AS 5 sold for 465 German Reichsmark," says Joachim Siedler, which at the time was the equivalent of a third of the price of a small motorcar. Nevertheless, some 400 people bought the AS 5.

It took some time for the car radio to become a mass product. "Philips for the first time offered a radio for the mass market in 1947," according to Eva Appold of the Siemens-VDO car parts supplier.

Some 1,000 units of these early D 78 A radios were manufactured every month. But the real technological step forward came two years later.

"It was a real milestone in the history of the car radio in 1949 when the units were reduced in size so that they could fit into the dashboard," says Roland Stehle of the German Association of Entertainment and Communication Electronics (GFU) based in Frankfurt.

After several years of stagnation, progress came in leaps and bounds. "The next milestone came in 1952 with the introduction of the short-wave radio that led to a significantly improved sound quality," Stehle said.

The ensuing years were marked by regular improvements and brought the car radio up to it's contemporary standard. In the 1960s, the radios came in stereo quality and with a cassette player.

In the 1970s, the ARI system was introduced in Europe bringing up-to-date traffic information with a special acoustic signal. Another revolution came in the 1980s with the first CD-Players.

Meanwhile, the car radio has become just one part of the infotainment system in a modern car, sharing its place with navigation and other systems. "Currently the big issue is a further improvement of sound quality," says Eva Appold from Siemens-VDO. Digital technology will gradually replace current reception technology, she pointed out.

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