Things to Know About Walkie Talkies

What is a Walkie Talkie?

A walkie talkie is a portable, handheld device that allows you to communicate wirelessly with people using radio waves sharing the same frequency band. They were invented by Canadian inventor Donald Higgs and American radio engineer Alfred Gross during the 1930s, and were mainly used in the second world war to share information across the battlefield. Today, walkie talkies are still extensively used by police officers, medical personnel and public events organizers to communicate over short to medium range distances.

The walkie talkie unit is powered by batteries and they each contain a transmitter/receiver antenna to send and receive radio waves. They are equipped with a loudspeaker that also functions as a microphone when you talk into it, and a ‘push-to-talk’ button.

The loudspeaker-cum-microphone works like an intercom system. Because speakers and microphones contain what are essentially the same components – a magnet, a coil of wire, and a cone made of paper or plastic to receive or generate sound – they can be combined into a single device and the direction of the electrical current determines which function is given precedence. In more sophisticated models, these features can be separated.

How do Walkie Talkies Work?

For people to talk to each other, they must first ensure that they are sharing the same frequency band (aka channel). When the walkie talkie is set to receive, the device’s microphone/loudspeaker will work as a loudspeaker and produce a hissing static sound. When someone wishes to talk, they need to press down on the ‘push-to-talk’ button which would force their loudspeaker to switch to the microphone function, eliminating the static sound.

As people talk into the handheld device, their voice gets converted into radio waves and broadcasted across the pre-arranged channel. The radio waves, travelling at the speed of light, will get picked up almost instantaneously by other devices, where they will be converted back into vibrations or fluctuating electric currents and the loudspeaker would use those to reproduce and broadcast the speaker’s voice.

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When the speaker has finished speaking, he or she would say “over” to let the listener know they have finished talking, and then release their finger from the ‘push-to-talk’ button. The walkie talkie would automatically return to listening mode for someone else to talk.

Unlike a normal radio, a walkie talkie is a two-way radio, meaning that it can send and receive information over distance. As the same channel is used for both functions, it also means that only a single person can talk into the device at one time.

Why do people use Walkie Talkies?

Walkie talkies are durable and simple to use with their few features. Anyone from kids to adults can easily learn how to use this convenient and practical device to communicate information across short to medium length distances. This is why they are commonly used in various organizations and industries where fast and group communication is needed. They are handy in places where normal cell phone network coverage is poor or unavailable, making them particularly useful during an emergency situation. 

Walkie talkies are commonly seen in the military, medical emergency and construction industries that sometimes require people to travel and work in distant regions where your regular cell phone would not function as well. Due to their simple features, they are also popular with families that use them as baby-monitor intercoms and to stay in touch with one another.

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