car radio

How the Car Radio Changed over the Years

One of the things car aficionados check out when they go to a used car franchise are the car radios. In this age of Bluetooth and smart screens, playing music inside the car is no longer a novelty. It’s a given with car companies trying to outdo each other with more specialized built-in systems. But if you like old cars, it goes without saying that you enjoy the whole vintage vibe that comes with it. You might be looking for a car radio with just the right amount of rustiness and reverb to take you to bygone days and maybe even relive your childhood.

So, how did the car radio come about? Hopefully, when you pick your next vintage car, you might want to consider its sound system. It differs from era to era.

Pre-war Beginnings

The first radios were installed in cars by Motorola and Philco during the 1930s. It was a big thing at that time, with prices of radio units amounting to twice or thrice the regular price of individual, radio-less cars.

Okay, Boomers

During the first half of the 1940s, people were preoccupied with the occurrences in their country. But in the 50s and 60s, inventors became creative. Blaupunkt sold the first AM/FM radio unit for cars in 1952, and in 1956, phonographs were installed in vehicles, complete with small turntables connected to the car’s electronic system. Unfortunately, this later proved dangerous as it was too large for a moving car, and the music stopped with every bump in the road. They were quickly discontinued.

In the 1960s, eight-track tapes were introduced to car radios, saving a lot of space and making cars appealing to young hippies. Technology continued to improve at an incredible pace, leading to the introduction of cassette tapes in cars. It happened in 1964, thanks to Phillips. The popularity of eight-tracks grew and continued up to the 1970s and early 1980s.

In with the Old and New

Because of the size, popularity, and convenience of eight-tracks, they remained popular for two decades, even when compact CDs were introduced to cars. They coexisted peacefully in the 1980s, although that generation also saw the rise of the Discman and even more portable radios. In 1984, Pioneer created CD players specifically built for cars. The improvement of quality in the sound was noticeable at once. The eight-track slowly began to lose its popularity.

The Nineties and the Noughts

four compact disc

CD players were convenient. They allowed musicians to become creative with album covers and lyric sheets. They turned into collectors’ items for fans. They were easy to play in built-in systems in cars and store-in compartments. Up until the mid-2000s, CD players remained widely used and were accepted as a part of any vehicle. Unfortunately, they also faced a new enemy, which only threatened them lightly at first before taking over in incredible proportions: the Internet.

With the Internet came mobile technology, artificial intelligence, and smart technology. Music systems were getting smaller and more portable. Soon, screens began to replace the good old CD players, complete with Internet access and entertainment systems. Heck, you can play Spotify in your car nowadays.

But, of course, the old style cannot be erased. You may like the old stuff, with the crisp imperfection in your music, the scratches, and the bumps that turn your imagination to sepia.

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