How in-car audio went from Motorola to Sirius XM

Road trips and music go together like Salt-N-Pepa, but how exactly did we start pumping up the jams in our cars? This video tunes into the topic by laying out a full timeline of audio evolution stretching from basic AM radio to satellite streaming services. And hopefully you enjoy musicals, as a handful of rap battles are thrown in to break up the action.

Donut’s video starts off the most primitive (and absolutely gigantic) mobile audio system, Guglielmo Marconi’s steam carriage mounted telegraph system from 1901. The towering contraption served as a proof of concept that broadcast receivers needn’t be mounted to stationary objects. Unfortunately, in-car radio receivers remained cumbersome and expensive until the late 1920s when Paul Galvin introduced the world to Motorola, the first low-cost, mass-produced car radio system. Both the car and radio industry embraced the new low cost option, forever changing the way people consumed music.

AM radio remained king for decades until higher frequency and better quality FM radios began showing up. Blaupunkt was first with a FM dial on their in-car unit for 1952, but popularity didn’t pick up until the late ’50s, eventually overtaking AM listenership around 1970.

While this battle for airwave supremacy raged on, personalized music options were just beginning to take shape. Chrysler offered their proprietary, 7-inch Highway Hi-Fi record player system on 1956-1959 model year vehicles, giving drivers the ability to select their own tunes for the very first time. The idea ultimately failed due to skipping tracks and limited album selection—but portable music development wasn’t over yet.

Next comes the transitionary period from Earl Muntz Stereo-Pack, to Learjet-owned 8-Tracks, mixtape-ready Cassettes, and crystal-clear sounding CDs. Following these physical mediums, were digital options, such as iPod integration, the dawn of satellite radio, and internet-based streaming services.

Where will we head next? Will streaming music play directly into our brains via an implant chip? If that’s the case, no doubt we will long for the days where life was simple and all you needed to do was turn the radio dial to get your road-trip tunes.