When Did Stereo and FM Radio Debut to the Public?
High fidelity records and radio really came into the public venue in the mid-fifties with the advent of Harman-Kardon, Inc. As the name suggests, it comprised of two engineers with $10,000 in 1953. The two men created the first true integrated Hi-fi system that sounded awesome for that time. If you have ever listened to an old 78 rpm record, and then a 33 rpm, there is a world of difference. Sidney Harman would sell his company in 1977 for $100 million. But, in 1958, there were no stereo receivers until the company created and released the first to the public. Stereo radio or FM, was barely on the public airwaves then. Few broadcasts were in stereo. The difference between monaural and stereo was like listening to AM or FM radio, you noticed the differences in sound and depth of bass, treble and separation of channels between two speakers. With monaural (mono), the sound blended even if you had many speakers because of the recording technique.
AM\FM radio choices were not offered to the public until the late 60's. AM was predominant in all markets, just as monaural records or LPs were due to costs. All cars had an AM radio and it was not until the late 60's that FM was even offered as a option. Like BW and color TV, which had few broadcasts in color until 1966-67 (when networks were all color), radio stations saw little reason to convert from AM to FM, it was costly and the audience listening to FM even in the 1968-70, was small in large metro areas. However, by the mid-70s, FM had really caught on and preferred by all. By then, most cars came with AM\FM radios. Also, most LP's were automatically released in stereo, monaural was buried for good. Back in the 60's, the option to buy a stereo LP was always available for an extra few dollars, but unless you had a stereo record player system, why? Again, most did not because of cost.
For instance, in 1964, The Beatles' first LP was released in the US. A monaural LP would cost $3.00, the stereo version (which sometimes was not really stereo!) cost $5-6.00. In today's money, it seems cheap, but back then, an hourly wage was not more than $1 for most. A new Mustang cost only $2000. A house, $10-15,000.