What is a Walkie Talkie?

Rohan Mathew

Updated on:

You’ve undoubtedly heard of walkie talkies. Either from your employment, as security guards and similar personnel use them, or playing with toy models when you were a child or if you have children and they have them.

You know what they are instantly when someone says the name, but do you know much about how they work? If you are interested in finding out a little more about these popular communication devices, continue reading as that’s what we are discussing in this post. 

First, we will outline exactly what they are and then dig a little deeper and look at how they actually operate. 

What Are They?

Known as walkie talkies because of their portability, they are portable handheld devices that utilize radio waves to allow for wireless communication, via a single band frequency. It was both Donald Higgs, a Canadian inventor who originally developed walkie talkies in the ‘30s, and unrelated, American Alfred Gross. 

They were called two-way pack sets or two-way radios before everyone cottoned on to the fact that their biggest selling point was the walking and talking functionality. 

Each walkie talkie handset is battery-powered and contains a receiver/transmitter, an antenna for receiving and sending radio waves, and a microphone/loudspeaker along with a push-to-talk button. Take a look at some of the top walkie talkies out there, especially if you are currently on the market for one. 

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How Do They Actually Work?

For walkie talkies to work, the people using them need to make sure they are sharing the frequency band, same channel. All handsets are then set to receive, the loudspeaker/microphone is set to the loudspeaker function. When there is no one talking, the walkie talkies are normally broadcasting sound of static and will sound a little similar to a detuned radio.

If someone would like to talk, they just need to depress the special push-to-talk button, that forces loudspeakers to switch onto the microphone function. 

When they speak, the words they speak are transformed into radio waves and they are broadcast along a pre-arranged channel. As radio waves are on the electromagnetic spectrum, they travel from one walkie talkie to the other at the speed of light. When they are transformed back into vibrations or electrical currents that fluctuate and then the speaker’s voice is transmitted through the loudspeaker.

Once the speaker has stopped talking, they then stay ‘over’ as that tells the listener that they have stopped speaking, and they release the push-to-talk button, and then their handset is back in listening mode. 

Walkie talkie count as two-way radios, this means that they are not the same as standard radios, that send and receive information. As the one single frequency band is used for the two different functions, it means only one can speak at any one time. 

To avoid any kind of interference from other users of two-way radios, most contemporary systems can function on multiple frequency channels. The radio transmitter needs to be able to create waves on different frequencies

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What People Use Walkie Talkies?

This type of two-way radios, walkie talkies, are used regularly in a variety of industries and organizations when there is a need for immediate communication between groups of staff. This includes:

  • Transportation industry workers
  • Military personnel
  • Security service workers
  • Emergency service personnel
  • Manufacturing industry workers
  • Hospitality industry workers (in places like restaurants and hotels) 
  • Construction industry personnel

They are also popular as toys and informal communication devise with families and children, thanks to them being easy to use and hard-wearing. 

They run on batteries, which can be expensive, but as many rely on rechargeable batteries, they do not actually cost too much at all.