Brain Pickings

The Secret Life of the Radio


From Marconi to the microwave, by way of revolutionary technology, legal battles, and magical materials.

“When correctly harnessed, radio can be as emotional, as funny and as satisfying as the best motion pictures or television shows,” Ira Glass has said. Indeed, the radio is a medium imbued with equal parts nostalgia and timeless mesmerism — there is something singular, something especially enchanting about how its invisible waves entrance us with their sounds and stories. But how, exactly, does the radio work, and how did it come to be? That’s precisely what Tim Hunkin and Rex Garrod explore in this delightful vintage episode of the TV series The Secret Life Of Machines, written by Hunkin:

Pair with this animated 1937 guide to how radio works, this illustrated guide to making great radio starring Ira Glass, and these gorgeous vintage covers for Radio Times magazine.

For some fantastic post-wave modern radio, treat yourself to Design Matters by Debbie Millman, 99% Invisible by Roman Mars, and Radiolab by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich.

Thanks, Alex

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