The history of IFA: tube radios, VHF, portable TVs & Miss IFA

The IFA should have started today. But IFA 2021 is canceled. As a substitute, we offer a journey through time including a photo gallery on the history of IFA.

When the IFA started in Berlin on September 3, 2020, everything was different: IFA 2020 was exclusively virtual / digital for private users. Only one IFA 2020 Special Edition for trade visitors and journalists took place on site in Berlin. However, some well-known companies did not take part, for example AVM canceled its participation.

But 2021 will be harder for the IFA: The fair will be canceled completely. Reason enough to look back on the long history of IFA: From the beginning to the turn of the millennium.

The starting shot was fired during the Weimar Republic

The starting shot was given on December 4th, 1924 with the first “Great German Radio Exhibition”. 242 exhibitors and 180,000 visitors met at the premiere in Berlin. At that time Germany had just overcome hyperinflation, the young republic enjoyed a brief economic boom and a lively cultural scene – it was the “Golden Twenties”.

The organizers of the first radio exhibition were the Association of the Radio Industry and the non-profit Berlin Exhibition and Exhibition GmbH.

Detector devices and the first tube radio receivers fascinated trade fair visitors back then. “Big German” radio exhibitions followed every year, in which radio and, from 1928, television presentations played the main role.

Under the radio tower

In 1926 the first live radio broadcasts were broadcast from the exhibition grounds. The Berlin radio tower was ceremoniously opened during the fair on September 3rd.

In 1928 the first flicker boxes made their debut with “Bildrundfunk”. But these televisions have at most one name in common with today’s televisions: postage stamp-sized pictures, 30 lines with 900 pixels.

The Nazis exploit the exhibition

In 1929, visitors were able to marvel at a radio receiver with a mains connection. In 1932, the Great German Radio Exhibition presented the first European car radio. When the National Socialists came to power in 1933, the NSDAP also took hold of the radio exhibition, with Propaganda Minister Dr. Josef Goebbels. But the real star of the exhibition was the Volksempfänger VE 301. The Nazis immediately recognized the possibilities of radio for their propaganda purposes, until the last pre-war exhibition (1939), Hitler’s propaganda minister opened the fair personally.

In 1936 there was a television receiver with 375 picture lines and interlaced lines. The Olympic Games in Berlin provided the first live program. In 1937 color came into play: colored television pictures were shown to the public.

In 1938 – when the “Volksempfänger” (Volksempfänger) at a price of 35 Reichsmarks enriched the range of cheap offers – a record was reached with 360,000 visitors. In 1939, 320,000 viewers saw the show – at that time there were almost 13 million radio participants.

New start after the war – in Düsseldorf

In 1939 the last Great German Radio and Television Broadcasting Exhibition took place in Berlin for a long time. It was not until 1950, after the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany, that the “Deutsche Funkausstellung” started again, but in Düsseldorf instead of Berlin. The exhibition now also has a new patron: Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Professor Dr. Ludwig Erhard, the father of the German economic miracle.

The fair started with 211 exhibitors and 220,000 visitors. The highlights are the first FM receivers. The radio exhibition now took place every two years and initially stayed in Düsseldorf before making a guest appearance in 1959 with portable television sets in Frankfurt. From 1953 the radio was increasingly displaced by television as a crowd puller. The fact that the television boom did not materialize at the beginning was due to the purchase price of around 1,500 marks for a device. Only falling prices and increasing purchasing power then brought the breakthrough.

The exhibition becomes international

In 1961 it went back to Berlin, now under the patronage of Federal President Dr.hc Heinrich Lübke. 158 exhibitors and 387,500 visitors found their way into the halls. From 1965 the radio exhibition went on tour to Stuttgart, Berlin, again Stuttgart and finally Düsseldorf.

The 1970 exhibition in Düsseldorf was held parallel to the “2nd International Exhibition with Festival hifi ’70”. While the radio exhibition had 192 German exhibitors, the hifi exhibition added 144 exhibitors from twelve countries, giving the show an international character for the first time.

Back in Berlin with a new name

The exhibition in 1971 took this internationalization into account – it was now called “Internationale Funkausstellung”. It took place in Berlin, where it is carried out under this name to this day. 598,710 visitors gave it the flair it needed. Innovations included VCR home video recorders and remote controls.

In 1977 screen text and teletext saw the light of day. In 1979 the compact disc (CD) was an innovation.

Pacemaker of innovation

The IFA remained the pacemaker of innovation in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1991 the first IFA took place in reunified Berlin. Technical highlights were Mini Disc, re-recordable CD and Photo CD. In 1995 Dolby Surround systems and flat screens were presented. In 1999, visitors could admire MP3 players and cell phones with Internet access.

In 2001 everything revolved around DVD recorders, TV sets with Internet access, DVD + RW PC burners and mobile phones with GPRS and Bluetooth.

Incidentally, the famous “Miss IFA” is comparatively young: in 1999 she appeared for the first time as a mascot at the fair and only a few years later was she brought to life every year by a newly selected woman.

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