Broadcasting, Radio, Fun Facts, List, History of Radio

10 Crazy Fun Facts About Radio

We have some exciting news to announce on the Live365 blog. Very soon, we will be publishing a series of historical posts related to radio! We'll be diving into the origins of radio broadcasting, radio equipment, formats, shows, and more...all for your reading pleasure!

In the meantime, while we buff up on our facts and do some more research, we've collected an array of interesting - and frankly, unbelievable - radio fun facts to share with you today. Without further ado, here are 10 little bits of trivia about radio you may not know!

1. The Word "Broadcasting" Comes from Farming

The word "broadcasting" is actually a mid 18th century agricultural term that means "wide scattering of seeds." The word didn't become a term related to radio until the 20th century, when the first radio broadcasts were created. Like with broadcast sowing, radio broadcasting also involves a large scattering of stuff: radio waves, songs, and entertainment.

Does this mean all radio broadcasters are technically farmers? We're not sure. But it's cool to know where the term comes from.

2. WLW Is the Most Powerful Radio Station in History...Literally

The most powerful radio station in history is Cincinatti's WLW. We don't mean "powerful" in the influential sense (although the station is very influential). We mean "powerful" as in the station broadcasts at 700KHz. At some point in the 1930s, the station's radio wave was 500Kw radiated power.

Think getting songs stuck in your head is bad? Try having songs stuck in your furniture! During the 30s, those in the vicinity of WLW's transmitter could hear the audio in their pans, pots, and mattresses. WLW is actually still around today, and is now owned by iHeartMedia.

3. You Can Thank Wheaties for Radio Jingles

The first radio jingle in history was made for a Wheaties commercial. According to General Mills, the world's first singing commercial was performed on Christmas Eve in 1926. Over the radio, four male barbershop quartet-esque singers beautifully sang “Have you tried Wheaties? They're whole with all the bran." You can listen to it below!

4. It Took a Sinking Ship to Normalize Overseas Radio

The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 mandated the use of radio at sea. It's not that there was no radio system on the Titanic. Quite the opposite: the radio system on the ship saved lives. During the sinking, sailors used the radio to reach out to the nearby ship and rescue passengers. The disaster would eventually play a part in the creation of the Radio Act of 1912.

5. The Eiffel Tower Is Basically One Big Radio Antenna

It wasn't created to be, but over the years, the famous Parisian landmark engineered by Gustave Eiffel has had a few uses in radio. The first public radio broadcasts were done at the top of the Eiffel Tower by radio scientists. Lee de Forest is viewed as the father of radio broadcasting. Being an opportunist, he took a break from his honeymoon in 1908 and climbed the landmark to broadcast a selection of music to the Parisian suburbs. He's basically the first radio DJ!

Additionally, The Eiffel Tower was meant to be removed after twenty years. However, it survived because the military saw its value as a radio tower to intercept crucial military transmissions during World War I.

6. Listeners Could Download Video Games from Radio in the 1980s

As the 1980s rolled around and computers were becoming the rage, engineers at the NOS - a Dutch broadcasting organization - made a cool discovery. Since both computer programs and video games were stored on audio cassettes, it was possible to transmit data across the radio, record it onto a cassette, and later play it on your computer. This led to radio broadcasts specifically designed to allow people to download free video games for their computer. Although, the layperson probably thought the transmission was just random screeching and beeping.

7. Radio Waves Go on Forever and Are Even Emitted By Planets

There's more science to radio waves than you might think. Researchers have discovered two interesting facts about them. First, it is believed that they will continue to travel forever unless something absorbs them. If that is the case, and if there are more life forms in other parts of the universe besides planet Earth, then other planets may have heard our radio waves.

Speaking of planets, other planets are able to emit radio waves. So can other things floating in space. In 1932, experts revealed astronomical objects emit radio waves. A system has been established that makes it possible to produce pictures from radio waves. Thus, astronomers are using radio telescopes to study radio waves emitted not only from planets, but also from specks of dust, gas clouds, stars, comets, and other galaxies. Who may have radio waves from Mars floating through your head right now!

8. Speaking of Space Radio Waves...NASA Has Its Own Radio Station

It's called Third Rock Radio and it only plays alternative rock music. You can check it out here.

9. 164 Songs Were Banned from the Radio After 9/11

After the terrorist attacks that destroyed the Twin Towers in NYC, media companies sent memos to thousands of radio stations across the country. The memos contained a list of songs they viewed to be "lyrically questionable," since Americans were grieving.

The list contained 164 suggested songs, including AC/DC's "Highway to Hell," the Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian," "Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds" by the Beatles, "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins, Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'," "Disco Inferno" by the Tramps, and "Jump" by Van Halen. Additionally, every Rage Against the Machine Song was to be banned.

10. Stevie Nicks Found Her Vocal Double Through a Radio Mistake

In 1978, a radio station mistakenly played Atlanta Rhythm Section’s song "Imaginary Lover" at the wrong RPM - 45 RPM instead of the original slower 33. This made the sped-up vocals sound like they came from Stevie Nicks. Consequently, the station received several calls about the "new Fleetwood Mac song."

Stevie eventually heard about the mistake, and decided to do a little test on her bandmates. She played the record at an increased speed for them, and they actually believed it was her singing. Below is the original song increased to 45 RPM. You can't really tell the difference between Nicks and the original singer!

Those are all the radio fun facts we have for you today. We hope to have some more soon. In the meantime, happy broadcasting!

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Article Image: A collection of multicolored radios from various decades on wooden shelves. (Red Flores via Unsplash.)

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About Kathryn Milewski

  • New Jersey