How to Connect Walkie Talkies
Technological advances in cell phones are staggering. They have an Achilles heel, though: They are completely useless without a network of nearby cellular towers. Do you have walkie-talkies, though? In areas where cell phone networks fail, these old-school radios can provide short-range wireless communications.
The walkie-talkie is a radio that is portable, wireless, and can be taken anywhere. The body of these devices includes a microphone, speaker, and antenna, much like cordless phones. The speaker and microphone on a walkie-talkie are placed right next to each other, though, so that anyone within hearing distance can hear the conversation.
Walkie-talkies function as both transmitters and receivers of radio messages. Half-duplex channels allow one walkie-talkie to transmit a signal at once, although more than one radio can receive the same thing. It follows that unlike your phone, where both parties can interrupt or add to the conversation continuously, walkie-talkies use a push-to-talk system (PTT) — to speak, you need to press a button, and to hear others, you need to release the button.
A walkie-talkie transmits without having to dial a number every time you want to speak. Plus, they don’t depend on unreliable cell phone signals. In case of natural disasters or power outages, the handsets still communicate when the cell network fails. Communication within short ranges is the primary purpose of short-range systems.
In and around commercial buildings, walkie-talkies are used to facilitate easy communication among employees. During hiking or hunting expeditions out in the wilderness, walkie-talkies are often a necessity for those who like to keep in touch. Even baby monitors are equipped with one-way walkie-talkies, so that you know if Junior sleeps peacefully or if he is trying to escape.
Read on to learn how they came to be and why they are such a vital communication device.
An insider’s look at Walkies Talkies
There are only a few basic components in walkie-talkies. The speakers, microphones, batteries, antennas, circuitry, batteries, and of course the iconic PTT button are all present. To produce radio signals that are useful, these parts must work together.
Think about rafting down a remote river with your friends, where there’s no cell phone service. PTT allows you to chat with your group members over your radio. A walkie-talkie converts the voice you speak into radio signals. The signals travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second or 299,338 kilometers per second) to all other radios within range and on the same channel since they are part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
You can learn how radio technology works if you aren’t familiar with the basics. The radio transmits and receives signals on any number of frequencies, which are infinitely variable They are expressed in Hertz (cycles per second). Most commonly, the frequency is measured in kilohertz (KHz) or megahertz (MHz). Since modern do all walkie-talkies works together typically have dozens of possible channels (or frequencies), before hitting the river you should make sure as a group you’re all on the same channel.
Radio frequencies are used to communicate with walkie-talkies. The two primary frequencies available for general public use in the United States are the Family Radio Service (FRS) and the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS). An FRS or GMRS radio operates at 460 MHz. The government sets aside a range of frequencies for corporate use, known as the Business Band, which lies between 450 MHz and 470 MHz.
As there is a limited amount of frequencies, especially among the public, the airways are often oversaturated with signals at once, which results in interference. We’ll soon see that many walkie-talkies have filters that block noise coming from others. Radio signals are sometimes bounced around by weather and electromagnetic anomalies, which is why sometimes other signals get picked up by accident, such as in the West Virginia case of the baby monitor that picked up the language of truckers talking on CB radios [source: NBC News].
Filtering signals will be covered in more detail later. Taking a look at the origins of walkie-talkies will help you better understand why they became so popular.