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From mono-radio to online connectivity – the Golf radio generations

March, 2021

The Golf is a reflection of his time. No other high-volume model in the world has been offered under the same name for more than 40 years. Generation-by-generation the infotainment reflects the status quo of progress. The spectrum ranges from simple mono-radio (1974) to the current multimedia system with permanent online connection. If you look at this infotainment development, you open one time capsule after another, travelling from the past into the present.

It all started in 1974 in the Golf Mk1 with its "Braunschweig" radio. One rotary knob on the left for power and volume, one on the right to select the station. Three buttons in between: one for medium wave and two for VHF. And that was it. Soon though, the radio spectrum was enhanced. Enhanced by no less than the new "Ingolstadt Stereo CR" – yes, a cassette radio. Cassettes? At the time a kind of do-it-yourself Spotify. In 1974 the 'play-list' would have been the formative songs of the year such as "Waterloo" by Swedish ABBA or "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll" with the Rolling Stones.

And as early as the Golf Mk2 in 1983, things started to get digital, well, a bit at least.

The "gamma" radio actually displayed the radio frequency digitised in an LCD display. It offered features like the Dolby button for noise reduction in cassettes. Superior performance did not only come in the Golf itself, e.g. as the GTI 16V. But also with the code-protected radio. In this case, with 4 x 7 watts of stereo sound.

When the Golf Mk3 came on the market in 1991, the cassette was still very popular. The soundtrack of this new epoch – "Wind of Change" by Hanover-band Scorpions – was played non-stop. The automatic station search and the traffic announcements were becoming better and better.

In 1997, Golf Mk4 broke class boundaries with its quality appeal. The "gamma" radio came for the first time with a CD-changer connection. Fear not though, it still took cassettes. Whether on radio, CD or cassette – in the late summer of 1997 one song was heard in the Golf over and over: "Candle in the Wind", performed by Elton John. At the same time, the triumphal procession of double DIN devices began with the "Multi-Functional-Display" (MFD). It offered a large display and coloured navigation maps.

By 2003, the new Golf Mk5 featured only double DIN devices. For instance, the "RCD 300" with CD drive. Cassettes are now history; now it's time for the mobile phone to come on board instead. The design and technology of the "MFD2" radio navigation system are already heading towards the future; there is now the option to connect a digital MP3 player to the device.

In 2008, the new "RNS 510" in the Mk6 celebrates its touch screen and DVD drive premieres. For the first time, there is talk of a multimedia system. This is equipped with a USB port, digital radio reception (DAB), dynamic navigation and 30 GB hard disk among other technologies. Listening to the radio in 2008, you cannot get away from songs like "Viva La Vida" by Coldplay) and "Valerie" by famous Amy Winehouse.

A major leap forward in 2012 and the Mk7 is achieved by the socalled Discover Media-System, including 3D map display, Bluetooth and WLAN hotspot.

With voice control and proximity sensors, people and machines are now interacting better and better. In 2016, Volkswagen revolutionises the interior of the Golf with the latest generation of modular infotainment. The new Discover Pro offers worldwide for the first time gesture control in the compact class. The completely glass-covered system fully dispenses with analogue buttons; functions and design also merge with the now optional digital instruments ("Active Info Display"). Using App Connect and smartphone, songs from all eras are now on board. The Golf itself now takes its place on the interface between present and future with the "Discover Pro" and "Active Info Display".

In the new Golf, which has been on the market since the end of 2019, you can't really speak of the classic term "radio". It's s technology leap comparable to the debut of the first touch-based smartphones. The offered radio and radio navigation systems now have touch sliders to intuitively adjust the volume for example. In addition, they are now connecting even more closely than ever before with their owners. The brand-owned system "Volkswagen We" and its services "We Connect" and "We Connect Plus" provide a constantly growing range of online-based functions and services. Big advantage: This means that the Golf is "always on" and brings streaming, web radio and other online features on board. Many possibilities for sound adjustment and an ambient light ensure the perfect atmosphere – depending on what music the occupants are listening to – from classical music to techno.