What is GNU Radio?

GNU Radio is a free & open-source software development toolkit that provides signal processing blocks to implement software radios. It can be used with readily-available low-cost external RF hardware to create software-defined radios, or without hardware in a simulation-like environment. It is widely used in research, industry, academia, government, and hobbyist environments to support both wireless communications research and real-world radio systems.

What is Software Radio?

The Wikipedia page on Software Radio provides an excellent overview. In brief, a software radio is a radio system which performs the required signal processing in software instead of using dedicated integrated circuits in hardware. The benefit is that since software can be easily replaced in the radio system, the same hardware can be used to create many kinds of radios for many different communications standards; thus, one software radio can be used for a variety of applications!