|First air date||1974|
The station began operation in January 1974, broadcasting at 10 watts of power on the frequency of 90.1 FM. In 1982, Lincoln College (originally chartered as Lincoln University and listed on WLNX's broadcast license as such), received permission from the FCC to increase its output power to 225 watts. Because of adjacent stations in the area and the potential overlap in signals/coverage areas, the station switched frequencies to 88.9 FM. The station originally was located in the basement of University Hall, a building listed in the National Register of Historic Places (ground for the building was broken on Abraham Lincoln's last living birthday). The broadcast antenna bays are mounted to the eastern side of the bell tower that sits atop the building. On June 11, 2006, the WLNX facility narrowly survived a fire that damaged portions of two floors of the historic building.
The founder of the radio station was Brayton Danner, a long-time science instructor at Lincoln College. Student interest caused Danner to found the Lincoln College Broadcasting Club, initially exploring the world of amateur radio operation. As student interest in broadcasting grew, Danner spent countless hours soliciting support for a broadcast radio station. He, along with the station's first chief engineer, Ray Knochel, set up the initial studios of WLNX. To complement the interest in broadcasting, Danner also petitioned the college and had broadcasting courses added to the curriculum. He taught these classes as part of his full-time duties, in addition to also serving as faculty adviser and General Manager of the station from 1974 to 1987. Danner continued overseeing the broadcasting program as a part-time instructor toward the end of his employment at Lincoln College, although he maintained an interest in the radio station as well as groundskeeping, photography, and other aspects of the Lincoln College campus.
Following Danner, local commercial radio veteran Jim Ash, who worked at WLNX when attending college at LC, was hired as part-time instructor and general manager of the station from 1987 to 1989. Lincoln College and WLNX alumnus Lloyd Kirby was hired as full-time instructor and general manager of the station from 1989 to 1998. In August 2004, Lincoln College hired John Malone, a veteran broadcaster from the Peoria, Illinois, market.
During its early years, WLNX aired music from a wide variety of genres. The initial philosophy of the founders was that the station was created by students for students, and students should determine the programming. Due to the FCC requirements that stations operate "in the public interest, convenience, and necessity," WLNX aired a variety of public affairs types of programming. Religious services from Lincoln Christian Church were broadcast Sunday mornings, students put together newscasts of both national and campus items, and various programs and public service announcements were incorporated into the station's broadcast schedule. While providing these programs to satisfy FCC licensing requirements, such programming was also aired in an effort to build the station into more than just a "free on-air jukebox." In an effort to provide a more consistent "sound" for the station, as well as taking into account college radio's place within the music industry, an effort was made early in the 1980s to emphasize alternative and new music.
Until 2004, the broadcasting schedule of WLNX always mirrored the semesters of the Lincoln College academic calendar, never broadcasting 24 hours per day. The station would routinely sign off during summer recess and for all scheduled breaks.
In mid-2004, WLNX began a satellite-delivered simulcast of classical music station WCPE-FM in Raleigh, North Carolina. At the same time, with the addition of computers and broadcast automation software, WLNX began broadcasting 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Under Malone's direction, during the fall of 2005, WLNX returned to local programming with a student-run and strictly formatted station. On November 22, 2006, after one year of airing a classic rock format, WLNX re-christened itself "89X - Lincoln's New Rock Alternative" and began airing a focused modern alternative rock format.
In the fall of 2013, WLNX departed from its Alternative Rock format in favor Active Rock. By the fall of 2014, the station quietly reverted to its original Alternative Rock format, featuring an even more pop-focused playlist.
Currently, WLNX, at 88.9 FM, serves an audience within a listening radius of about ten miles from the college, located at 300 Keokuk Street in Lincoln, Illinois.
On November 29, 2007, WLNX began streaming on the internet, with access available at www.wlnxradio.com. In 2013, WLNX joined the iHeartRadio digital platform, and can now be accessed worldwide on mobile devices by downloading the free app.