When radios were introduced to cars in the 1930s, they were the first form of in-vehicle infotainment, providing a technological accompaniment to drivers on their journeys. Over the decades, just as cars have evolved, so too has the infotainment technology within them. Today, we can now control numerous functions from the infotainment unit in a vehicle, but how did we get to this point? This infographic from Woodstock Motors takes you on a trip through the last 90 years.
1930s-50s: Radios to record players
Motorola had the honour of being the company to provide the first car radio, albeit at a cost of $130 to drivers (that figure is now equal to $1,700). The first car radios only had AM tuning, but it wasn’t long before mechanical data storage was introduced, whereby drivers could save their preferred stations and access these with the push of a button.
Into the 1950s, motorists wanted to choose what they listened to instead of being presented with whatever radio stations were available. Hence the introduction of record players, a great idea in theory but one which proved impractical, as the sound quality of vinyl was badly affected by vibrations from the road.
1960s-90s: Cassettes to CDs
In the mid-60s, eight-track cassette storage was introduced and magnetic tape provided far better audio quality than grooved vinyl. These systems were bulky, however, so the advent of compact cassette players in the 70s was widely welcomed.
These stood the test of time better than previous infotainment formats, although they would be usurped by CD players come the 1990s. Unlike tapes, CDs retained excellent audio quality over time and were lighter and slimmer.
21st century: Touchscreen and WiFi
From 2000 onwards, MP3 systems and touchscreen units grew in commonality, while cars also began to have GPS navigation built-in, thus sparing the need to buy a separate satnav system. In recent years, some cars even have integrated WiFi networks and apps.
Mark Dressekie is the owner of Woodstock Motors, a family-run car repair and service business in London. He has a huge interest in automotive tech and frequently writes articles related to this topic.