When Göta kanal was built in the early 19th century, Motala became an important city for the trade on the canal. Motala verkstad was the ship and steam engine industry, famous in large parts of the world. In the science fiction novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, the Nautilus submarine's (engine?) was built at Motala verkstad.
Another important event in the history of Motala is 1925, when the Swedish national longwave radio broadcasting station was built here. The city marks the middle of a straight line between Sweden's two biggest cities, Stockholm and Gothenburg. Radio programs were transferred from studios in Stockholm to Motala by telephone wire. The call was "Stockholm-Motala". The sender operated on 191 kHz longwave until a few years ago.
As a consequece of the radio station the company Luxor was started. Luxor soon became one of the largest radio, and later Television manufacturers in Sweden. In 1985 Luxor was acquired by Nokia, a Finnish company.