History of Walkie Talkies: From Military to Everyday Comms

Walkie-talkies and two-way radios have been around for many decades, evolving over time to include a wide range of features and capabilities. These devices are used by both adults and children for recreational purposes, as well as by businesses and organizations for communication and coordination.

Today's walkie-talkies come in a variety of shapes, colours, sizes, and with many different features to choose from. From wartime developments to modern-day two-way radios, these devices have come a long way and continue to be an important tool for communication and collaboration in many different settings.

Key Takeaways

  • Walkie-talkies and two-way radios have been around for many decades and have evolved to include a wide range of features and capabilities.

  • These devices are used by both individuals and organizations for communication and coordination.

  • Today's walkie-talkies come in a variety of shapes, colours, sizes, and with many different features to choose from.

The Introduction of the Two-Way Radio

In 1937, the Canadian inventor Don Hings invented the first walkie-talkie. Similar devices were developed by other inventors around the same time. Hings created his portable radio signalling system while working for CM&S. Initially, these devices were not known as ‘walkie-talkies’ and were designed to help pilots communicate effectively. However, when the Second World War broke out in 1939, their benefits for soldiers immersed in battle became clear. The earliest devices were made of metal and weighed around five pounds, standing at approximately 17 inches high. During the 1970s and 1980s, they became more popular with recreational users, including adults and children.

Wartime Developments

During the war, portable radios became a crucial tool for communication on the battlefield. Hings developed various models of portable radios, with the Model C-58 Pack Set becoming an iconic and prestigious device. The C-58 had several features, including a range of antennas and power supplies, voice scramblers, and a filter to remove battle noises from communications. Motorola also developed the SCR-300, which was one of the first two-way radio devices. It was so vast that it could only be transported in a backpack. While some argue that the first walkie-talkie was created in 1933, these devices only communicated in code and drew power from vehicles. It is also incorrect to attribute the invention of the device to Al Gross in 1938, as Hings was already producing radios by that point. These portable radios played a crucial role in wartime communication, allowing messages to be transmitted loud and clear even during gunfire and engine noise.

What were the first known names for walkie-talkies?

Before being referred to as walkie-talkies, these devices were known by other names such as wireless sets, pack sets, and two-way field radios. The term "walkie-talkie" was coined by journalists who were reporting on the new technology. The development of these devices was aided by radio engineer Alfred J Gross and the Motorola engineering team during their early years. During World War II, British, German, and US armed forces used two-way radio systems, including walkie-talkies, for tank units and field artillery. Following the war, these devices were used to enhance public safety before being adopted for commercial and construction work.

How do Walkie-Talkies Work?

Walkie-talkies typically consist of a speaker and a microphone, with an antenna on top of the unit. Half-duplex walkie-talkies use a single radio channel, allowing only one user to talk at a time. However, all users can listen in. To talk, users press the push-to-talk (PTT) button, which turns off the receiver and turns on the transmitter.

Full-duplex walkie-talkies allow for simultaneous transmission and reception. They work by using two separate channels, one for transmitting and one for receiving. This allows for more natural conversation, as both parties can speak and listen at the same time.

In summary, walkie-talkies work by utilizing a microphone, speaker, and antenna to transmit and receive signals. Half-duplex devices use a single channel, while full-duplex devices use separate channels for transmission and reception.

Operating a Walkie-Talkie

To operate a walkie-talkie, all users must be tuned to the same frequency band or channel. The device converts words into radio waves that travel at the speed of light. Electric currents are used to reproduce the talker's voice through the loudspeakers. It is important to say "over" and release the PTT button to indicate that you have finished speaking, which returns the radio to listening mode.

Walkie-talkies and Two-way Radios

As a transceiver, a two-way radio or walkie-talkie can both send and receive radio communications simultaneously. It differs from a standard radio that can only transmit one-way communication. There is often confusion between the terms walkie-talkies and two-way radios. However, it is commonly understood that a walkie-talkie is a type of two-way radio that is handheld. In contrast, two-way radios can come in many forms, including wall-mounted base stations and mobile radios mounted inside vehicles. The key difference between a walkie-talkie and a two-way radio is that the former is portable and can be carried around, while the latter can be stationary or mobile.

Maximum Effective Coverage

I always make sure to research the maximum effective coverage of a walkie-talkie before purchasing one. Depending on environmental conditions, some systems can communicate up to 50 miles away. However, in some situations, clear communication may only be possible within a mile radius. It's crucial to consider these factors when selecting a walkie-talkie to ensure reliable communication.

The Two-Way Radios of Today

I have found that modern two-way radios and walkie-talkies come equipped with a range of features that make them useful for a wide range of scenarios. These features can include flashlights, SOS signals, and weather alerts. Most two-way radios used by the public have a range of around two miles and weigh less than half a pound. They are popular with businesses and individuals who need to communicate with others in areas without mobile phone coverage or Wi-Fi.

More Modern Features

As technology has progressed, walkie-talkies have become smaller and more portable. Some models are now as small as a deck of playing cards, making them ideal for personal use. In addition to their reduced size, modern walkie-talkies also come equipped with a range of new features. These include DCS (digital squelch) and CTCSS (analogue squelch) for clearer communication, trunking facilities for more efficient use of frequencies, and VOX capabilities for hands-free operation. It is also possible to add external microphones and speakers to enhance the functionality of the device. However, it is worth noting that equipment used for commercial and military purposes is typically ruggedized and only operates on a limited number of frequencies. Despite the significant evolution of the walkie-talkie over the past eighty years, the possibilities for future developments are endless.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the history of two-way radios?

Two-way radios, also known as walkie talkies, were first invented in the 1930s. They were initially used by the military for communication purposes during World War II.

What was the original purpose of walkie talkies?

Walkie talkies were originally created for military communication purposes. They allowed soldiers to communicate with one another in real-time, which improved their overall communication and coordination during battles and other military operations.

How did walkie talkies change communication in war?

Walkie talkies revolutionized communication in war by allowing soldiers to communicate with one another in real-time. This improved coordination and allowed for faster decision-making on the battlefield. Walkie talkies also enabled soldiers to communicate with commanders and other units, which improved overall communication and coordination during military operations.

What are some interesting facts about early walkie talkies?

Early walkie talkies were large and heavy, weighing over 20 pounds. They were also expensive and only available to military personnel. Additionally, early walkie talkies had limited range and were often unreliable due to interference and other technical issues.

What are some common communication codes used with walkie talkies?

Common communication codes used with walkie talkies include the NATO phonetic alphabet, which is used to spell out words and communicate letters clearly. Other codes may include numerical codes, such as using "10-4" to indicate understanding or "10-9" to ask for a repeat of a message.

What are some other names for walkie talkies?

Walkie talkies are also known as two-way radios, handheld radios, and portable radios.

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My name is Jeremy and I have been an avid car nut for many year. My first car was an 1987 Honda CRX. I put in my first Kenwood stereo, amp, 2 10" JLs and a CB Radio in it and have been an avid user of CBs and car radios for years. I'll do my best to share my tips, information and thoughts to help you with whatever question you might have, ABOUT ME 

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