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The world used to be a much bigger place, at least when you consider the difficulty involved with transmitting information from place to place. In the beginning, we simply had to walk and talk to one another, and then we were able to write and exchange letters. Ideas and music traveled the world at a snail’s pace as compared to today. But then the radio was invented, and suddenly transmitting ideas hundreds of miles became a relatively trivial matter! The world became connected, and it would never be the same. Let’s celebrate the history of the radio and the interconnectedness it brings us!

History of World Radio Day

Radio waves were originally discovered by one Heinrich Hertz, following on the heels of his discovery of electromagnetic radiation. Radio waves operate at a frequency of 30 hertz and 300 gigahertz. These waves are generated by a device called a transmitter. The transmitter is connected to the antennas which allow the radio waves to radiate. Finally, these waves are received by a radio receiver that is attached to another system of antennas.

While experiments were performed in using Hertz’s discovery to transmit information, it wasn’t until 1890 that the word radio was first applied, when the radio-conducteur was invented by French Physicist Édouard Branly. Previous to this all forms of communication using this discovery was known as wireless communication, but eventually, radio spread across the world and became the go-to term.

Radio quickly spread to find applications in every conceivable venue, from transmitting information to broadcasting music, and even serving as a way of transmitting stories. Long before there was TV, there was Radio Theater, (incidentally, this also brought along the creation of Foley artists, but that’s another story entirely). Now, radio waves operate both wired and wirelessly. The term “wireless communication” was coined in the 19th century to describe radios and other forms of technology. The wireless radio can transmit information without needing to be connected with cables and conductors. Items with wireless radio waves include smartphones, laptops, and printers. Wired devices work by connecting the two items with a cord that helps to send data, like cable television, microwaves, ovens, and satellites.

Radio had been recognized as having such a profound impact on the world today that the Spanish Radio Academy put in a formal request to have Feb 13 be established as ‘World Radio Day’ on September 20th, 2010. On September 29 2011 the UNESCO officially proclaimed that it be established the following February. So it was that the first World Radio Day was celebrated on February 13, 2012. UNESCO describes the radio as “a powerful medium for celebrating humanity in all its diversity and constituting a platform for democratic discourse.” Quite the description for such a versatile device!

World Radio Day Timeline


George Adams notices sparks

An English scientist and scientific writer notices that sparks are initiated between charged and uncharged conductors which eventually lead to the discovery of radio waves.[1]


The word “radio” is first used

When Frenchman Edouard Branly does work on his radio-conducteur, the wireless transmission term is eventually reduced to be called simply a “radio”.[2]


League of Nations “Radio Nations” begins broadcasting

Beginning with a transmitter in a Dutch station PCJJ, the League of Nations “Radio Nations” moves to Switzerland in 1932. The program lasts for ten years, transmitting throughout Europe and picking up communication from the rest of the world.[3]


United Nations Radio is Established

Starting with makeshift offices and studios in New York, the first message to be broadcast was “This is the United Nations calling the peoples of the world.” The program was established by the UN General Assembly and continues to this day.[4]


First World Radio Day

Decided upon in 2011, the first World Radio Day was established to be celebrated on February 13 in honor of the anniversary of the first broadcast of United Nations Radio in 1946.[5]

How to celebrate World Radio Day

The radio has taken many forms throughout the years– as AM/FM, HAM, Shortwave, and many more. With all of these versions of radios, you probably have one (or a few of them) in your home now, even if you don’t have a standard AM/FM radio!

World Radio Day is a great opportunity to remember all those years we spent traveling with Walkman and enjoying the best and newest music broadcast from your local radio station. Set aside your CD’s and MP3 players, and remember when you discovered new music by what they played on the radio.

Dig out that old boom box and drag it down to your local beach or park to reconnect to your local radio community, and remember what the world was like before whatever music we wanted was at our fingertips. If you can’t find your old boom box, consider listening to the AM/FM radio in your car to celebrate during your commute or while you’re out running errands. If you’re working out or doing other activities, consider listening to your old MP3 or iPod products!

Maybe you’ll find we’re better for it, or maybe you’ll realize that the news broadcasts kept you in touch with your community, the voice of local celebrities accompanying you and bringing a hometown feel to your morning commute, your lunchtime break, or even your road trip. Maybe you’ll remember those road trips with family while you listened to your MP3, or you’ll remember tuning in to your favorite radio show as a kid!

It’s been over 130 years since the word radio was first used to describe Hertz’s wave experiments. Now, 130 years later, the radio is one of the most important inventions for staying connected to those near and far! So, to celebrate, dig up that old or new radio device, and play your favorite song in celebration of World Radio Day. Happy listening!

World Radio Day FAQs

When is World Radio Day?

World Radio Day is celebrated on February 13, in honor of the launch of the first broadcast of United Nations Radio in 1946.[1]

What is World Radio Day?

Paying homage to the impact and power that radio has given to the people of the earth, World Radio Day celebrates this element of mass media.[2]

Why is World Radio Day celebrated?

World Radio Day was created to raise public awareness and mark the importance of radio, even today, as an affordable and vital medium for communication, particularly in remote places and for marginalized peoples.[3]

When was the first World Radio Day?

The original World Radio Day was celebrated on February 13, 2012 after UNESCO (United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) voted to establish an official observance for the day.[4]

Who invented radio?

The invention of radio spanned decades in the late 1800s, but the first person to discover electromagnetic waves (which includes radio waves) was German Heinrich Rudolph Hertz.[5]

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