Car trivia: the first car radio is called motorola


A lot of the communications technologies that we take for granted today were produced by Motorola in the years that followed the World War II. This includes the built-in Motorola radio that came in the early 1930s and became one of world’s first commercially successful car radios.


Tinkerers and part-time inventors named William Lear and Elmer Wavering were the ones who invented the car radio while Paul Galvin – owner of Galvin Manufacturing Corporation – is credited as the man who first recognised the potential of the invention. Paul and his brother Joseph saw it as a relevant product that would keep their electronic device company alive.


To demonstrate how well the car radio worked, Galvin drove his Studebaker 850 miles from Chicago to the 1930 Radio Manufacturers Association convention held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He parked the car outside and cranked up the radio volume to ensure all the passing conventioneers could hear it. It was a genius move and he then returned to Chicago with an impressive number of sales orders.



That prototype was called the 5T71. It was made up of a receiver, a bulky black box with vacuum tubes and an octagonal box that contained a speaker and was mounted under the dashboard. The name was later changed to “Motorola” because many companies in the phonograph and radio businesses in those days used the suffix “ola” for their names. Since the radio was intended for use in a motor vehicle, Galvin decided to call it “Motorola”.


The first Motorola radios were expensive. It was estimated by some to cost around $130. It was wildly popular, however, with sales that reached all the way across the border into Mexico.


Even though car radios have become such an important part of our driving experience today, they were not always so widely embraced. In the early days of their existence, some safety-minded legislators wanted to ban car radios for being a dangerous distraction that could cause accidents. It would definitely freak them out today if they see us texting while driving.


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*Photos are courtesy of Google Image Search

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