A Brief History of the Two-Way Radio

The two-way radio has come a long way from the days when you used to play with those walkie talkies you got for Christmas only to have them break or to lose interest in them before the following spring. Actually, the two-way radio has been around for more than a century, but technological advancements make today's two-way radios a breed apart from what they started out as and what you played with as a pre-teen.

Then and Now: A Short History

From security to aviation to warehouses to schools and campuses, two-way radios, which can both transmit and receive, are used in a wide swath of different venues and occupations. Around the beginning of the 20th century, Swedish engineer Ernst Alexanderson developed the first high frequency generator that enabled the transmission of speech. Before the first World War, sailors were using radio transmitters and receivers on ships out at sea.

Australian policeman Frederick William Downie developed the first true mobile two-way radio for patrol vehicles in the early 1920s. In 1933, the Bayonne, N.J. police department launched two-way communications with its patrol cars, a marked improvement on previous one-way systems.

In the late 1930s, Motorola created and marketed the SCR300 walkie talkie, largely for use in the military by infantry soldiers. In 1944, Galvin Manufacturing Corporation installed Motorola radios in Yellow Cab Co. taxis in Cleveland, the first commercial FM two-way taxi communications system in the U.S. But in the generations since, two-way radios have evolved into more lightweight, compact communications devices that offer as few as two or as many as 14 channels for locations that consist of several different frequencies.

Staying within Radio Use Guidelines

Radio signals must follow a communication protocol and frequencies also have to follow the regulations that have been set so that they do not interfere with other frequencies. In the 21st century, two-way radios have become so streamlined and advanced that they're as easy to operate as a telephone, with governing bodies like the FCC aiding in the process of providing seamless communication.