Walkie-talkies are hand held devices that allow two or more people to communicate using radio waves. Most walkie-talkies let users do one function at a time (either listening or talking). They are a type of device known as a “two way radio.”
Two way radios transmit
(send) and receive radio communication signals. Another term
for a device like this is a “transceiver.” Regular radios, like you
might have in your house or car, are only receivers. They are designed just
to pickup radio broadcasts. So walkie-talkies are almost like a tiny
band) radios are another type of two-way radio. CB
radios are used mostly by truck drivers to communicate with each other and
with headquarters. Cell phones are another type of two-way radio. They are both different from walkie-talkies in the way
they are used.
What are the parts
are six main parts to a walkie-talkie. These items are the transmitter,
receiver, crystal, speaker, microphone, and power source. The transmitter sends your voice, after it has been made into a radio
signal, to the other walkie-talkie you are communicating with. The
receiver picks up the radio signal that the transmitter from the other
walkie-talkie sent. The crystal sets the frequency (also called a channel) that
the walkie-talkies are on. They must be on the same frequency
to communicate. The speaker is the part that takes the signal picked up by
the receiver and amplifies it, so it can be heard. The microphone is the
part that you speak into, and it converts your voice into electric signals. It
is the exact opposite of the speaker which converts electric signals in
voices. The power source is a type of
battery, and sometimes these are rechargeable.
have switches to change frequencies, so people do not hear other
conversations by users sharing the same frequency. Also, some units can be
used as pagers and some cell phones even have walkie-talkies built into
What is the history of walkie-talkies?
They were originally invented by Mr. Al Gross. He patented them in 1938. Mr. Gross became interested in wireless communication when he was 12 years old and was shown a ship’s radio during a boat tour. He was still working and giving presentations to school children, one of his favorite things, when he was over 70 years old. Mr. Gross also invented the pager, the CB radio, and came up with the idea behind cellular communications (cell phones). Some sources also give credit for the walkie-talkie to Mr. Donald Hings. He had a walkie-talkie that was introduced in 1942. Mr. Hings may have come up with the name “walkie-talkies.” He was asked what people could do with the radio, and he said, “walk and talk.” He died on December 21, 2000.
were first widely used by the military. The first ones were very heavy
compared to the walkie-talkies you can get today. They were carried in
backpacks and had a handset that looked kind of like a phone. The military
job, called “radio man” or signal corps, was very dangerous, because
the soldier carrying the radio could only carry small weapons. It is a
very important job, because they send and receive information to military base camp
about enemy positions, places to send reinforcements, and casualties.
Police officers and fire
fighters were the next group to start using walkie-talkies. Police
officers use them to radio back to the police station with information
about crimes such as robberies or car accidents. Fire
fighters use them to call back to people on the ground or in other fire
trucks and to communicate with each other when inside a burning building.
Sometimes a firefighter will go into a building with a partner and check
the situation and then radio back to the fire fighters outside about the
Now, all sorts of
civilians use walkie-talkies too. Custodians, clerks, repairmen, snow plow
drivers, and all sorts of workers use them on the job. They are not just for
work; walkie-talkies can be used for fun too. You can communicate with
friends or siblings when playing. Families take them camping, on hikes or
bike trails, and even shopping at big malls.
You should not discuss
private or confidential things on regular walkie-talkies. Some scanners,
or even some kinds of walkie-talkies, can scan frequencies and listen in
on conversations on other people’s walkie-talkies. So be careful what you
say on your walkie-talkie. You never know who might be listening!
Walkie-talkies keep getting smaller and lighter every year. They also have started to cost less. The original walkie-talkies cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Now walkie-talkies can cost as little as $5 for “toy” walkie-talkies, but professional ones may still cost in the thousands.
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"Al Gross, Inventor of the Walkie-Talkie." Inventor of the Week Archive. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 15 November 2004 <http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/gross.htm>.
Rappaport, Ted. "Al Gross Remembered." IEEE Communications Society. 15 November 2004 <http://www.comsoc.org/socstr/org/operation/awards/remport.html>.
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All copyrighted clip art images of walkie-talkies from "Microsoft Office Online" <http://office.microsoft.com/clipart/default.aspx?lc=en-us&cag=1> (October-March, 2004-2005). Clip art available only to licensed users for non-commercial purposes.