From Radio to the Internet – the History of Audio Systems

From Radio to the Internet - the History of Audio Systems

All you need to do these days for a bit of company in your car is press a button on the dashboard. Popular music, the spoken word, news, traffic information – we take all these for granted these days. Infotainment systems and car radios, have developed apace.

22. 8. 2018 Škoda World Heritage

The first head units appeared in the US in the 1920s, initially as an experiment in just a few cars. The first mass manufacturer of car radios was Paul Galvin, later the founder of Motorola, who began installing them around 1929. The first head unit in Europe was introduced by the predecessor of Blaupunkt at a radio technology exhibition in Berlin in 1932. Its name was AS5 – the abbreviation AS stood for Autosuper, number 5 for the number of tubes (in the first third of the 20th century, until the invention of the semiconductor transistor, tubes were part of all electronics).

The device weighed 15 kilogrammes, cost about one third of the price of the car, and could even be connected to a gramophone. At that time, factory-fitted audio systems were far ahead in the future. The first head unit built into the dashboard, with station selection buttons, was launched by Decker in 1951. Two years later, Decker came up with an improved automatic station search system. The first transistor radio was introduced by Philips in 1961. In 1968, the same company made it possible for drivers to use audio cassettes in cars. The first digital display was showcased by Blaupunkt in 1979. Philips and Becker launched the first car CD players in 1985.



  • 1992


    Prior to the FAVORIT, ŠKODAs were not factory-fitted with head units, so the only way to go was after-sale installation. The first ŠKODA to change that status quo was the FAVORIT, although even in this model the radio was only an optional extra no matter which trim level you chose, i.e. it was available for an additional fee or in limited-edition cars. The first limited edition, the Komfort, was launched in 1992, later followed by the Marathon and Sport Line. Supplied by Blaupunkt, the head units slotted into a dashboard “drawer”. Later, as an anti-theft measure, they came with a security code and/or removable front panel. Basically, these were standard car radios that Blaupunkt had developed. To make them more ŠKODA-specific, they featured the carmaker’s special backlight colour and logo.

  • 1999


    The first car radios specifically manufactured to meet ŠKODA’s requirements were devices designed for the FABIA, the new model that premiered in Frankfurt in September 1999. It was at this juncture that an independent, ŠKODA-specific range of car radios, navigation systems and the whole infotainment range started to be developed. The first model to feature a CD changer was the OCTAVIA in 2000. A 6 CD changer could be found in the boot.

  • 2001


    Navigation systems first appeared here and there in ŠKODAs in 1998, and were fully deployed – starting with the ŠKODA SUPERB – as of 2001.

  • 2008


    Touch screens have been available in ŠKODAs since 2007, when the Columbus system was installed in the OCTAVIA, before being fitted in the second-generation ŠKODA SUPERB as of 2008. This modern, easy-to-control touch screen came with a 30 GB hard drive for rapid data access.

  • 2013


    In 2013, the OCTAVIA was the first ŠKODA to feature a touch screen with a proximity sensor and multi-touch control, including the possibility of zooming in and out of maps using an intuitive, two-finger gesture. The CANTON Sound System, supported by new interior noise-proofing, offered a first-class audio experience.

  • 2014


    The first model to provide an easy smartphone-car connection was the FABIA in 2014. Named MirrorLink, the system used the screen of the Bolero infotainment system to display and control selected smartphone applications. In addition, the new FABIA offered SmartGate, an interface designed to display, save and provide access to a variety of vehicle data via special smarthone apps.

  • 2015


    The third-generation SUPERB yielded another first for ŠKODAs. Customers could take their pick of four new infotainment systems based on the Volkswagen Group’s MIB (Modularer Infotainment-Baukasten – modular infotainment kit). Columbus, the top-end line, was the first system to offer, as an option, an LTE high-speed internet connection.

  • 2018


    Today’s ŠKODAs, such as the KAROQ (pictured), feature capacitive touch screens. ŠKODA Connect, a new package of mobile online service, is divided into two categories: Infotainment Online to provide information and navigation functions, and Care Connect services, designed to help the user in emergency situations, such as if the car breaks down. Further online services are provided through ŠKODA Connect App, which is designed to cooperate with the user’s smartphone to remotely check and configure the vehicle, and even identify its location if you forget where you parked it.

Related Stories Based on tags: 2018, Fabia, Favorit, Karoq, Octavia, Superb