How Much Do You Know About the History of Radio?



By: Gavin Thagard

6 Min Quiz

Image: Photograph was taken by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, photo number: GHQ SWPA SC 43 5901 by T/4 Harold Newman.

About This Quiz

Before there was television and before there was the internet, the world marveled at a new form of entertainment that allowed broadcasters to reach families both in their homes and in their cars. That entertainment, of course, came from the radio, which would prove to be one of the greatest inventions of the early 20th century. Do you claim to be a radio expert? Do you think you can pass a quiz on the history of the radio? Here's your chance to find out!

The rise of the radio changed everything, particularly in the lives of Americans. By the end of the 1920s and early 1930s, radios were in homes all over the country. People no longer needed to go to a concert hall to hear music, and they no longer needed to pick up a newspaper to hear the news. Instead, they just had to flip on the radio and all of those things were brought right to their doorstep. 

Do you know where the radio came from, and what its earliest uses were? How many of the early radio personalities do you remember, the ones who changed talk radio and broadcasting in general? Get started with this quiz and put your radio knowledge to the test! 

Who was the first person to demonstrate the existence of radio waves?

Heinrich Hertz put into practice a theory proposed by James Clark Maxwell. During the experiment, Hertz discovered the frequency of electromagnetic waves, named the hertz in his honor.


Which inventor displayed a wireless radio in Missouri in 1893?

Nikola Tesla was born during a lightning storm, a sign of his future. He would go on to become one of the most important inventors in history.


Who was the first person to transmit signals across the Atlantic Ocean?

Guglielmo Marconi was an Italian inventor. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on the wireless telegraphy, which set up the future of radio.


What were the earliest radios used for?

In 1912, 700 people were saved when the Titanic sunk thanks to radio operators who summoned nearby vessels. Sadly, the ship closest to the wreck never received the signal, which would have helped save more lives.


During which war did the radio first gain prominence as a way to communicate beyond marine use?

Leading into WWI, the U.S. government took control of all radios, both private and commercial. It then began training radio operators to help with the war effort.


What was the first radio station licensed by the government?

Westinghouse, a radio manufacturer, developed the idea for KDKA. The company teamed up with Frank Conrad, a prominent ham operator during the time.


What was the first presidential race broadcast across KDKA?

The 1920 presidential election pitted two men from Ohio, a popular swing state, against one another. Warren Harding came away with a victory for the Republican Party.


What year was the first radio ad?

The first ever radio ad was from a real estate developer. They were trying to rent apartments.


Where was the first radio ad broadcast?

Even with the rise of television, most Americans still listen to the radio. That makes radio ads an effective selling tool, even today.


What was the first national network in the United States?

NBC stands for National Broadcasting Company. It made its first official broadcast on November 15, 1926.


Which company founded NBC?

RCA was an electronics company. The company was integrated into General Electric in 1986 after several years of failed projects.


What was NBC's first nationwide broadcast?

The 1927 Rose Bowl pitted Alabama against Stanford in a game that ended in a 7-7 tie. This was the first of many major cultural broadcasts by NBC.


When was the Federal Radio Commission established?

The Radio Act of 1927 gave the FRC the ability to give and take licenses from broadcasters. In 1934, the FRC was replaced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).


Who invented FM radio?

For his work as an electronic engineer, Edwin Armstrong received several awards and honors. One of the most significant was being the first recipient of the Institute of Radio Engineers' Medal of Honor.


What was the first radio broadcast network in Britain?

Named the British Broadcasting Corporation, the BBC was founded in 1922 by John Reith. That makes it the oldest national broadcasting organization in the world.


Why did radio succeed newspapers in Britain?

In 1926, newspapers in Britain were called to join the General Strike. The strike was meant to aid miners who were being forced to take less money from mine owners.


What was wrong with AM radio?

During the General Strike in Britain, newspapers were reduced to a few pages of bullet-point news. Radios, on the other hand, were just gaining their footing as a news source.


Why were radios important during World War II?

Most countries with access to radio technology used it for propaganda during the war. However, Adolf Hitler, the leader of Germany, famously took control of all radios in Germany to create one state message.


Which Prime Minister of Britain gave inspirational speeches throughout WWII to the people of Britain?

Britain was the one nation left defending Western Europe during the early years of WWII. Facing constant attacks by Germany, Winston Churchill inspired his people to continue fighting off the German invasion.


What did John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley invent in 1947?

In radio, broadcasting comes from an agricultural term. It means the scattering of seeds.


What was the first commercially manufactured transistor radio?

The Regency TR-1 went on sale in 1954. Consumers enjoyed the small size of these radios.


How much did the Regency TR-1 originally cost?

Around 150,000 Regency TR-1s were sold. However, their quality of performance was lacking.


Which company manufactured the Regency TR-1?

I.D.E.A teamed up with Texas Instruments to create the Regency TR-1. Some of the parts in the original design by Texas Instruments were cut because of their cost, which was one of the reasons the radio's performance suffered.


What was the name of the radio receiver put out by American Galvin Manufacturing Corporation in 1930?

Motorola comes from merging "motor" and "ola" together. "Ola" comes from the word "Victrola," which was a product with an internal horn.


When did the "seek" option come out on radios?

The "seek" option was first created by Becker. It allowed drivers to search for a station without manually operating the radio during every station change.


What was the brand of the Chrysler Corporation's all-transistor car radio in 1955?

Transistor radios helped eliminate vacuum tubes. This cut the amount of space and power required for the radio.


Which car manufacturer incorporated the first 8-track tape players into their radios?

Ford teamed up with Motorola to create the first 8-track tape player for a car. It came in response to Philips' compact cassette tapes released in 1964.


Who famously directed "The War of the Worlds" broadcast in 1938?

Orson Welles had a successful career first in radio and later in film. His most famous film was also his first film, Citizen Kane.


What was "The War of the Worlds" about?

Today we know that "The War of the Worlds" was just a radio drama. However, when Orson Welles first read the drama over airways, listeners thought Earth was threatened by a real Martian invasion.


Which president used the radio for a speech on the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Many people consider the Cuban Missile Crisis the closest the world has come to a nuclear holocaust. Luckily, the catastrophe was avoided.


What station did Father Charles Coughlin use throughout the 1930s?

Father Coughlin originally used the radio for religious sermons. However, by the mid-1930s, he was pushing his political agenda and heavily criticizing President Franklin Roosevelt. He was forced off the air in 1939.


Who purchased KFSG in 1924 to promote her ministry?

Sister Aimee was one of the earliest media celebrities. She helped pioneer what would become talk radio.


Who is known as "the father of talk radio"?

Barry Gray's first ever caller was Woody Herman, a famous lead musician. Herman had been talking to Gray while Gray was working, so Gray put the phone up to the microphone so that listeners could hear the conversation.


Which humorist helped bring about the Golden Age of talk radio in the 1930s?

Fred Allen oversaw The Fred Allen Show with his wife, Portland Hoffa. The show ran for 17 years from, 1932 until 1949.


For which major broadcasting company was Paul Harvey known to work?

Paul Harvey was most known for his The Rest of the Story segments. He was on the national airways for more than 50 years.


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