While one probably tends to think that car radios were invented and developed in the United States during the early twenties, it was actually in Chelmsford, England, that the first mobile experiments took place. Designed by Guglielmo Marconi, the first mobile installation antenna on record goes back to 1897.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the experiments of Guglielmo Marconi were continued by the Americans Lee Deforest and Edwin Armstrong, who set the foundations of radio early in the twentieth century. Lee DeForest had been one of the prime advocates of “automobiles as wireless stations.” Early in 1903, and as told by a magazine of that era, “he fitted his instruments to automobiles so that the electricity which propels the automobile while in motion can be used for wireless telegraphy when the automobile is at a standstill”.
In those pioneering days of radio broadcasting, antenna installation was one of the major stumbling blocks for the development of car radios, which were known as “motorized radios” then. For example, and to put things in perspective, AM home radios required over 100 feet of antenna wire to achieve passable reception. For mobile installations, the wire was typically hung from vertical poles, or wrapped around a square or rhomboid-shaped wooden frame.
It is the intent of this paper to describe the early attempts to overcome the problems of installing an effective antenna in a motor vehicle.
The period to be covered in this Part One is from 1897 to 1937, year in which the whip (or rod) antenna became the dominant force.
Part Two of this paper (to be issued by the S.A.E. in 1988) will cover the period 1937-1987.