Brown College Blog

How Radio Affects Technology Today

September 17, 2013 General 0 Comments

Radio Affects TechnologyTake a minute and brainstorm all of the uses for radio waves you can think of. How many did you come up with?

You might use radio to listen to music or catch up on the news or your favorite radio show, but the capabilities of radio waves are far more powerful than you might expect. Consider this list of historical uses and how radio has evolved and changed over the years.


We think of the radio and telephone as two separate technologies, and for the most part that’s true. But today we rely more and more on a combination of both to make calls, send texts and more.

Landline telephones don’t use radio signals at all – they connect to the broad telephone network through a wall jack. Cordless phones, however, use short-range radio waves that allow the handset to communicate with the phone’s base. And mobile phones? They use radio waves to connect to cell phone towers.


WiFi, or wireless internet, functions the way a cordless phone does in your house. Instead of the headset transmitting signals to and from the phone base, the wireless card in your phone or computer communicates with a wireless router via radio waves.

Do you use a 2G, 3G, or even 4G connection on your phone? This mobile technology is a long-range form of wireless phone and internet that also uses radio waves. The predecessor of the cell phone, the mobile radio telephone, is actually considered “0G” technology.


If you listen to music in your car, you’re using radio technology. And if you use GPS navigation, you’re still using radio.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is operated by the U.S. Department of Defense using satellites. GPS satellites work by sending information on two different radio signals at light speed. By gauging how long it takes the signal to reach the GPS receiver and measuring the receiver’s distance relative to other satellites, a satellite is able to quickly calculate the location.

In a less literal sense, ships and airplanes use radio as navigational aids to communicate emergency and safety information, navigational warnings, and more. In fact, naval communication and safety was one of the primary uses of radio in the early 1900s.


Radio Detection and Ranging, or radar, is another significant use of radio developed for use by the navy and air force during World War II. Essentially radar is designed to detect objects using radio waves, and it can measure speed, distance, direction, and more.

Today, radar is used in air traffic control, flight control, guided missiles and other defense and surveillance systems. It’s even used in the astronomy, meteorology and marine fields.


Radar research actually led to the invention of the microwave, which heats food through radio waves. It was invented by an engineer named Percy Spencer after World War II, after he realized that the waves from a piece of equipment produced enough heat to melt a chocolate bar in his pocket. His invention was called the Radarange.

If you’re interested in radio technology, learn more about radio waves and how they’re used in the world of radio broadcasting.


What do you think?