There was a time when vehicles featured nothing more than gear shifts, brakes and, after a while, windshield wipers. It was considered too much of a distraction to include something to allow a driver to hear music while traversing rough roads with dozens of other people still trying to figure out how these horseless carriages worked. How did we get here from there?
In a new article for Jalopnik, Alanis King takes a look at how car radios came to be after two friends and entrepreneurs failed—twice in one decade—in their efforts to make millions on batteries.
“The pair—Paul Galvin, an engineer, and his friend, Edward Stewart—took their business to Chicago and began a venture into the car-radio market with Galvin Manufacturing Corporation, creating the first mass-produced commercial car radio. That venture ultimately led to the creation of the company Motorola,” she writes.
Pulling from History.com, the first radios for cars were portable, battery-powered units that drivers plopped down next to them in the vehicle. This was followed by custom-installed radios, built into the dash, that would cost an owner roughly $250 each, or $2,800 in today’s market. Galvin wanted to make it more affordable for drivers to have music on their travels, so he began making radios in 1930 that sold for about $110 each, but still needed to figure out a way to market his product. “After all, he couldn’t exactly buy radio advertisements that would go directly to his target audience,” King jokes.
Instead, he decided to adopt a technique that would be considered guerrilla or viral marketing today: He went to where his clients were gathered. “Galvin parked his radio-equipped car outside of an annual convention for the Radio Manufacturers Association and blasted music from his car,” King says. “He sold enough of the cheaper radios that year to almost break even, later changing his company’s name to ‘Motorola’ in 1947—a title with roots in the car industry.”
Drivers have been grateful for in-car audio ever since.
To read more, go here.