Blaupunkt from 1932: the first car radio weighed 15 kilos and was sinfully expensive

First car radio weighed 15 kilos and was sinfully expensive

Before the digital revolution in the cockpit: a Blaupunkt car radio in a Porsche 356 coupe from 1950

Before the digital revolution in the cockpit: A Blaupunkt car radio in a Porsche 356 Coupe from 1950

Get in, start the engine, turn on the music – for millions of drivers, the radio is part of everyday life at the wheel. the car radio warns you of traffic jams, entertains you on long journeys and gives you a living room feeling in your car. 98 percent of all new cars and 97 percent of all used cars now have a radio on board, according to the latest DAT report from the automotive industry.

This year the industry celebrates the 80th anniversary of the. Birthday of the car radio. 1932 the first model was installed in germany. In the U.S., ford equipped one of the 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 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 safer and more convenient. "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 desired hotel on the internet before their 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 also takes care of the online booking while you’re on the road.

Assistance systems already support the driver in the event of an accident with an automatic or manual emergency call to an emergency response center using precise GPS positioning. In the future, direct communication from car to car will make driving even safer: vehicles will be able to warn each other about unexpected obstacles. This works much faster than today’s traffic radio messages.

"mobile and smart 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 imagined such a development when the first receiver was presented at the berlin radio exhibition in 1932. After that, engineers concentrated primarily 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 radio "nuremberg. 1953 the first radio with station search followed. at that time, 40 percent of cars in the federal republic already had a radio, according to a review by the gesellschaft fur unterhaltungs- und kommunikationselektronik (gfu) (company for entertainment and communication electronics).

The boom of the economic miracle made the car the valued companion of the Germans in everyday life – and the car radio was with it. in 1958, a pull-out radio appeared that could be used on the beach with batteries, and philips presented the first record player for the car – the model for future cd players. At the end of the 1960s, the first car cassette drive and the world debut of the stereo radio followed.

Retrofit radios hardly fit in the dashboard anymore

In the 1980s, the car CD player and the radio data system (RDS) were introduced. The technology also helped to improve the availability of traffic announcements. Due to the risk of theft, it became fashionable to take the radio into the restaurant or cafe with you.

Later, the industry developed electronic security codes. the first models for a navigation system followed in the mid-90s. Blaupunkt’s "berlin" model is the first car radio media center with a video-capable screen, navigation and interface to the phone 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 devices shrank from almost four million in 1994 to 1.1 million today, says gfu spokesman roland stehle: "the aftermarket has lost ground."the industry is pinning its hopes on 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.

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