At first radio wasn’t really thought of for entertainment purposes it was about more efficient communication. There are around 700 survivors of the Titanic who owe their lives to the early use of radio communication. Telegraph technology couldn’t be used in a situation like theirs. As a matter of fact, the use of radio communication was a huge technological advancement in both the nautical and military worlds.
Radio technology began being considered for entertainment purposes mostly around 1915. The problem is that companies had to have something worthwhile enough to broadcast that people would be interested in purchasing a radio for their homes. Sports were one of the first big selling points as people were mostly stuck with finding out about how well their ball teams did through reading the newspaper; offering them the ability to experience games live was huge. By the way, the first college football game broadcast was Texas University vs. Mechanical College of Texas in 1920 and the first pro baseball game broadcast was between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies in 1921.
Television wasn’t around and music was big part of family entertainment (record players), so once again radio broadcasters thought it would be effective selling radios by allowing people to hear all kinds of different music which led to the world of Disc Jockeys and broadcast studios where artists could come in and provide their music live for listeners. Isn’t it amazing how many jobs were created because of the invention of radios? Let’s not forget the advertising agencies who also benefited.
Another great success for radio broadcasters came in the shows they offered like The Shadow (1930) and The Lone Ranger (1933); family entertainment would never be the same. By the way, the historic radio broadcast of War of the Worlds took place in 1938.
Radio changed the world for those back in the early 1900’s. No longer did people have to read newspapers to find out what happened, they could listen live to various broadcasts. Families could actually sit around the radio and spend time together. The problem was the cost which was around $120 per unit ($1,400 in today’s dollars), so most families couldn’t afford a radio when they first came out. Prices did drop dramatically though so they eventually became a regular household item.
The television started gaining ground in the 40’s so radio took a bit of a hit although as we can see it is still a very long lasting technology. I use it daily in my car but can’t remember the last time I listened to the radio in my house. There have been thousands of inventions over the years but I have to give a big shout out to those who created the radio because it has provided so much entertainment for over a century with no end in sight.