An article about walkie-talkies.

Walkie-talkies were of course highly interesting in military quarters but they also opened a new dimension for civilian communication as well. On July 28, 1945, a few weeks before Japan’s capitulation, E.K. Jett of the American FCC published an article entitled “Phone Me by Air” in the Saturday Evening Post, a weekly famous for its magnificent illustrations.

Jett envisaged a “Citizen’s Radio” that would enable wireless communication using something he called a “handie-talkie”, a handheld communication radio that anybody would be able to get a license for – apart from foreigners.

“If (as a woman) you have an accident or something goes wrong with your car, then you can reach for your handie-talkie to contact the police, a garage or – if it is only a puncture – your husband,” was one of Jett’s examples. Another involved a housewife who needed cream while cooking dinner; she could have it delivered to her front door after calling the milkman on her handie-talkie.

It would have been particularly interesting if the communication was localized to the 460 MHz band and had a low transmission output, as little as 1–2 watt. Then the range would have been short, and frequencies could have been “recycled” no more than 20 or 30 kilometers away. This would have made it possible to have thousands of zones for handie-talkies in the US and the frequency range would have allowed the use of 70–100 channels. Millions of users would therefore have been able to communicate by wireless in the zones in which they lived.

The FCC began to issue the first licenses for this kind of traffic during 1945. Far too many technological challenges remained unsolved, however, for Citizen’s Radio to be able to function properly. The channels were shared by everybody but only one user could transmit at a time. If everyone tried to speak at once, the system got congested. There were also problems if one dominant user hogged the airwaves.

Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn