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The radio may be looked upon as an old invention today. When we have high speed internet available in our pockets it seems like ancient history when people had to tune into radio waves to get a hold of the latest news or a little bit of entertainment. The truth is, however, that the radio was a revolution when it was first made available to the crowds - it seemed like magic to hear people situated far, far away speaking out of a box in their own living room.
The word "radio" is derived from the Latin word "radius" which means "spoke of a wheel, beam of a light, ray". It was put into use in 1881 on the initiative of Alexander Graham Bell (best known for inventing the telephone), but originally as "radiophone" which would be traslated to "radiated sound".
Scientists were working on the radio concept for decades before the big breakthrough. Theoretical evience for electromagnetic waves being able to travel through free space were formed already in the mid 1800's. Heinrich Rudolf Hertz was the first one to confirm theories of electromagnetism.
The "Hertzian waves", today better known as radio waves, ignited ideas in fellow scientists and many experiments were carried out. Gugliemo Marconi gained a patent on the first commercial communication system around the shift of the century.
The development boom came during World War I due to the need for an efficient communication system in the military. Commercial radio broadcasting began in the 1920's.
During World War II there was another big boom, within the fields of radio navigation and radar.
Modern use of radio
Modern radio systems are digital, for example satellite radio and digital TV. Few own their own radio anymore and even less tune into the AM and FM channels. Everything is available online.