100 years in 100 days

Radio 100

The story of radio is not what you might expect. Have you ever wondered how radio moved from furniture to fashion? Why video never actually killed the radio star? How a tech evolution spurred a cultural revolution?

Radio 100 tells those stories, and all five chapters are available to explore.

Start your adventure through 100 years of Aussie audio history now. 

Dive into all five chapters of Radio 100
Chapter 1
A man sitting at a desk in a 1920s radio studio with radio equipment and a gramophone next to him

New Waves: 1923 to 1935

Radio revolutionised Australia, signalling the dawn of modern communications, entertainment, advertising, entrepreneurship and celebrity. 

But few early broadcasts survive. Radio’s origin story is one of fragments, residing in its technologies, innovations, ephemera and uncanny possibilities. 

Explore Chapter 1 - New Waves: 1923 to 1935

Chapter 2
Five women leaning against a desk looking at a sheet of paper, they are all smiling.

Golden Days: 1920s to 1960s

In Golden Days, radio becomes a vital part of the family home and a reliable round-the-clock source of news, sport and entertainment.  

Pioneering women make their voices heard through radio dramas. Television forces change, as radio becomes portable. And, by the '60s, pop stars have well and truly arrived.

Explore Chapter 2 - Golden Days: 1920s to 1960s

Chapter 3
A young woman holding a transistor radio on top of her head and posing for the camera

Youthquake: 1950s to 1980s

The Beatles' 1964 tour of Australia marked a watershed moment in Australian media, ushering in a seismic cultural shift that forever altered the radio landscape. 

The Take 40 Australia countdown becomes a rite of passage. And once music fits in our pockets, we keep it there – forever. 

Explore Chapter 3 - Youthquake: 1960s to 1980s

Chapter 4
Three people pictured in profile, wearing headphones and standing side by side in front of microphones in a radio studio.

All the Voices: 1970s to now

Underrepresented voices are finally given a platform on the airwaves and create connection and community with every radio broadcast.

SBS Audio, 2SER's Gaywayves and the First Nations program Radio Redfern break new ground in the 1970s and '80s. And youth stations Double J and FBi Radio unearth new talent. Audiences suddenly have so much choice – and this is only the beginning.

Explore Chapter 4 - All the Voices: 1970s to now

Chapter 5
A computer screen showing examples of different apps and monitors and windows open on it.

Let's Get Digital: 1990s to now

Radio has survived television, the internet and podcasting, especially in Australia where the local industry is still iconic.

Radio adapts, switching from a live experience to one you can access anywhere, anytime – all thanks to the internet, smartphone apps and the new audio kid on the block: podcasting.

Explore Chapter 5 - Let's Get Digital: 1990s to now

There’s something about audio

Radios through the ages

These days radio travels with us – in cars, on our mobile, through headphones – but this wasn’t always the case. See if you recognise any of the radio equipment below from the NFSA’s collection, and discover the cutting-edge technology of the time.

Portable radio received with fold out speakers on the side and a carry handle on top
1962: PYE Blackbox transistor stereophone

The explosion of pop and rock music that began in the 1950s led to a tech revolution in sound equipment, like this take-anywhere transistor stereophone that combined a turntable and radio in one. Discover this and more in Chapter 3 – Youthquake: 1950s to 1980s.

A radio received in a black box with round speaker and dials on the front.  It has a carry handle on the top.
1930: Airzone portable radio receiver

With an inbuilt speaker and a black leatherette carrying case, this Airzone model was ahead of its time. In Chapter 1 – New Waves: 1923 to 1935, you can discover more of the tech dating right back to the birth of radio in Australia. 

Radio receiver in white plastic casing with dials and display on the front
1950: The Astor 'Mickey Mantle' radio

It was during the 'Golden Days' that radios began to shrink from bulky pieces of furniture to portable transistors. You can see more like the 'Mickey Mantle', pictured here, in Chapter 2 – Golden Days: 1920s to 1960s. 

Radio receiver, c1920s, housed in an ornate wooden box.
1933: Radiogram by The Electrical Specialty Manufacturing Company

Pictured here is the 'aristocrat of radios', the oldest radiogram held in the NFSA collection, combining both a radio and a gramophone in one console. Find out more in Chapter 1 – New Waves: 1923 to 1935.

A JVC branded 'boom box' portable tape player and radio with a large carry handle.
1987: JVC portable radio and cassette player

Read about this portable JVC unit in Chapter 4 – All the Voices: 1970s to now, where we see the rise of community radio and the increasing demand for on-the-go music, news and information.

A pink Sony branded digital mp3 music player.
2007: The Sony Walkman 4GB digital media player

This 2007 iteration of the iconic Sony Walkman series was just one of the tech items featured in Radio 100 Chapter 5 – Let's Get Digital: 1990s to now.

Close up of some radio and sound equipment from the early-mid 1920s
'Radio has been the soundtrack to my life, from Mum listening to Macca on local ABC in the 80s, to taping songs off triple j in high school. Now my husband texts the breakfast show of our community radio station and my daughter and I listen out with glee for his song requests.'
Clare Fletcher, Author
'I often think about a story from the SBS Greek team. At a street festival one day a listener was chatting to the presenting team before a live broadcast. She said she had to leave to go home to listen to the show. She knew she could stay and see it live, but 4pm to her meant sitting on her sofa with a tea and the radio on. Audio is enmeshed in our lives. Radio and podcasts fit into our routines, but there’s also something incredibly special about the connection they can create.'
Caroline Gates SBS Manager of Podcasts and Digital Audio
'As a teenager, I fell for radio, staying up late to tune into triple j. Over the years, hosting ABC radio has made me feel like Australia is a rich tapestry woven with incredible conversations, characters and stories that we're all fortunate enough to immerse ourselves in. Live broadcasts can hold you in the moment. Radio has bound us together in times of emergency. Crafting audio documentaries across the globe has revealed to me the profound, understated power of a microphone to capture people at their most honest. If you want to witness someone's humanity? Listen to them.'
Marc Fennell Journalist, radio and television personality
'To me, radio, podcasts and audio culture in Australia means so much: it’s the thing you put in your ears to tune out the world or feel more connected to it. It’s road trips flicking through stations to find the right song or the local weather report. It’s listening to my footy team winning a match as a kid. It’s a podcast shared best with friends or that makes you feel like the hosts are your best friends. It’s a shower while listening to the morning news. It’s my first boombox, Walkman, iPod and phone. It’s pressing play and record at the same time to tape a song during the top 40 countdown in the 90s. It’s music and joy and my career. It’s stories through sound; in episodes, instances, songs or industry. It’s community, education and entertainment. It’s the past, present and future.'
Stephanie Van Schilt Producer at LISTNR
'I really came of age when the intimate relationships audiences had with radio evolved to become even more direct through podcasting. The evolution from broadcasting to narrowcasting, it became about finding the specific things you cared about and allowing the like-minded people that share that passion to live in your ears.'
Alexei Toliopoulos Film critic, host of Finding Drago podcast
'Training as a journalist, I thought I’d write features or perhaps do TV. But I found radio, and it’s become my enduring career love affair. For me, radio is the adrenaline thrill of being live with an open mic; its greatest joy is the one-to-one connection you make with each listener, and the theatre of-the-mind you create together. There’s nothing else like radio.'
Andrea Ho AFTRS Head of Radio and Podcasting
'As a volunteer at SYN 90.7 at RMIT, I was lucky enough to get to host my own show. I called it folk ODYSSEY (dramatic, Michelle), and it ran on Sundays at 2pm. It was one of the first projects I worked on where it was just me. If I wasn't ready at 2pm on Sunday, there would be dead air. It was a powerful feeling, getting to talk to people and share something I was passionate about. It ended up being a fortuitous experience, as years later I became a podcast producer and have worked on over 4,000 hours of podcasting on more than 10 shows. My love affair with audio continues today, but it started back in that underground studio on Sunday afternoons, talking at the wall about 60-year-old folk tunes.'
Michelle Melky Producer at Amplify