The Many Uses Of Radio Waves

Discover the many uses of radio waves and the role radio plays in our lives, from entertainment to medicine.

Radio is one of our most important ways of communicating. Since the late 1800s, when radio was invented, it has played a huge role in our lives. Communication between two far distant places became quick and much more inexpensive than stringing telegraph wire. Suddenly, ship-to-ship and to-shore radios were saving thousands from disaster at sea, radio entertainment broadcasts were going into peoples' homes, and soldiers in the field were able to keep in touch with friendly units.

Broadcasting is the most well known use of radio. Radio stations arrange songs and programs of particular genres to broadcast to listeners who tune in to hear them. Most stations provide short newscasts and talk radio provides a public forum where people can listen to interviews or call in to speak with the host or his or her guests. Sports events can be broadcast as an announcer provides a play-by-play description of the action. Companies can buy ad space on privately owned stations to air commercials designed to appeal to that station's listeners.

Two-way radios are also very important. Emergency personnel such as police, fire fighters, and ambulance crews use radio to stay in contact with their bases and with each other. They send and receive reports with radios in their vehicles and carry smaller portable devices with them. An EMT can send descriptions of wounded individuals ahead to the doctors at a hospital so they can prepare to treat them.



Commercial vehicles such as taxis, trucks, and airplanes use radios to receive directions and report difficulties. Construction crews, farmers, ranchers, and other groups use radio to send and receive information such as instructions and warnings. Radio is used extensively in the military to facilitate communication between bases, ships, planes, military vehicles, and field units. Private individuals may also use radio to communicate with others on citizens band radio.

Other uses of radio include remote controls used to direct toys, railroad cars, or unpiloted aircraft. Airplanes depend on radioed navigation signals to stay on course and a form of radio called radar is used to guide ships, submarines, and aircraft as well as to detect them. Radios may also transmit large amounts of data between electronic devices, such as computers. Devices called bugs allow others to listen in on private conversations to obtain information and are commonly used by intelligence agencies. Doctors can also use radio to diagnose stomach ailments by having the patient swallow a capsule radio and then studying the signals it transmits.

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