Tune In: Radio at the Ontario Science Centre

2014, Ontario Science Centre, Science, Temporary Exhibit
morse code, radio, science, scientific instruments, technology
About This Project

Partner: Ontario Science Centre

Venue: Ontario Science Centre – map

Project Members: Lauren E. Williams


  • Objectives
    To exhibit artifacts in the existing collection in a manner that is reflective of the mission and mandate of the OSC
  • To teach visitors about the history and science of radio
  • To enhance the visitor experience of the Amateur Radio Station space when not in operation
  • To provide additional ways for radio volunteers to engage with visitors


Exhibit Excerpts
Making Waves: Inventor Guglielmo Marconi made the first ever trans-Atlantic wireless transmission in 1901.  He received three dots – the Morse code for the letter “s” – from colleagues in Cornwall, England while standing on the top of Signal Hill, St. John’s, Newfoundland.


Thrown by a Curve: Marconi’s fellow scientists were skeptical that his wireless transmission would make its way across the Atlantic. They believed that radio waves travelled in a straight line and wouldn’t be able to follow the curvature of the Earth. They were wrong. Radio waves can travel around the world because they bounce off a layer of Earth’s atmosphere called the ionosphere.


Ham It Up: Since its invention around 1900, the radio has attracted an active community of amateur radio enthusiasts called “hams”. Over time ham radio has developed its own culture and language called “hamspeak”. For example, ham operators still use Morse code and the unique way each operator taps a message is called a “fist”. Ham operators can tell each other apart by their “fist” the same way you can recognize your friend by their voice.


Did you Know: Aspiring radio operators often made their own radios out of household materials such as Quaker Oats boxes.


Rolling Radio: Today, it’s hard to imagine driving a car without music but until the 1930s the idea would have seemed ridiculous. In 1930, the small company Galvin Manufacturing invented the “Motorola”, one of the first purpose-built car radios. The Motorola was a luxury product and purchasers needed to have their car dismantled in order to have it installed.


’Round the Radio: Think about all the ways you now receive broadcast and digital media. Before that, radio was how people got the news or enjoyed home entertainment such as plays and concerts. A large floor model radio like the one you see here would have been a gathering place for friends and family.