What are Walkie Talkies?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

Walkie talkies are portable communication devices consisting of low-level radio transmitters and receivers. Originally designed for military communications during World War II, they became popular again in the 1970s with the CB radio craze. Children seeking a wireless way to hold "secret" conversations were the biggest customers of toy models. Most adults used the 40 channel CB radios for two-way communications.

Walkie talkies can extend for ranges that extend far beyond the base unit.
Walkie talkies can extend for ranges that extend far beyond the base unit.

Early walkie talkies operated on the same frequencies assigned to Citizen's Band radios. The most common channel assigned specifically to them was channel 14. This meant that conversations could be overheard by anyone with a properly tuned CB radio, but this was rarely a problem because the average transmission range of toys was only a few hundred yards. FCC licenses were not required for low-powered walkie talkies because of their limited broadcast ranges.

Walkie talkies may be used to communicate with others over long distances.
Walkie talkies may be used to communicate with others over long distances.

Some later models used the same frequency as baby monitors and cordless phones, which created even more privacy and interference issues. With the advent of cellular phone systems, the use of toy walkie talkies has declined noticeably.

The devices formerly known as walkie talkies have now enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, although more manufacturers refer to them as "two-way radios." These handheld devices no longer use the easily intercepted CB radio frequencies. Most two-way radios now use the Family Radio System (FRS) bandwidth which has 14 channels assigned by the FCC. Within these channels are 38 subchannels which provide more opportunities for private communications. Only those devices tuned to a specific subchannel can pick up broadcasts on that bandwidth. Some advanced ones also use a voice scrambling technology to electronically distort message during transmission.

These new two-way radios boast of ranges extending two miles or more. Any walkie talkies with ranges of 5 miles (8 km) must be licensed with the FCC before use. Most people use these portable communicators to keep in touch with family members at a large shopping center or crowded public event. More adventurous users may purchase ones with added features such as a global positioning system, compass, weather channel tuner and hands-free voice commands.

Walkie talkies consist of low-level transmitters and receivers.
Walkie talkies consist of low-level transmitters and receivers.
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular EasyTechJunkie contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


I have a friend who is urging me to buy some walkie-talkies with long range capabilities. My concern is security. Can conversations be monitored? How secure are they?


Did you know that deer are deaf? I can prove it to you in just a few short words.

My husband, avid hunter that he is, is always looking around for ways to better his outdoorsman experiences with his buddies.

To give you an idea of how gifted they are, I think they actually brought home three deer between the four of them in the past four years.

Get the idea? So here is what I find absolutely amazing.

Apparently deer cannot hear two different four wheelers approaching them at high speed up a mountain. They also cannot hear the high end walkie talkies these four great hunters are constantly talking on.

However, they must have an excellent sense of smell to make up for their obvious lack of hearing because I cannot stand for these men to enter my backdoor after a day of ‘hunting.’

They smell like the ‘earth’ deodorant that they wear (this masks their human smell and makes them smell like dirt…why then is it called deodorant?) and the apparent deer pee that they spray on their boots.

They are rotten.

Logical? I think not.


My kids have decided that the baby monitors no longer need to be baby monitors, but are far more functional as a sort of walkie talkie.

It is nothing at all to hear one child talking to another at the other end of the house through the baby monitor.

I suppose they could have gotten this idea from their father and me.

We’ve had both children in the nursery for years. You see, the nursery is actually attached to our bedroom suite, and we were far more comfortable with them being there.

However, our daughter started school this past year. We thought she was old enough to go to her own room at the other end of the house. The problem was we were both terrified she would need us and we wouldn’t be able to hear her.

So we got the monitors for her to call us on, rather to actually monitor what she was doing.


Wow I didn’t know that. I wanted to add that when I went on a cruise a few years ago a lot of people were walking around with cheap walkie talkies. They even had walkie talkie for the kids.

It really made sense because there was no cell phone service on the ship and this was the only other way to communicate with other people in your party.

It made it convenient because many people were able to meet exactly where they needed to without walking the entire ship looking for their family members. This was also great for teens that were walking around because they would be able to call their parents if they needed anything. It really came in handy.


Voice scrambling has been ruled illegal as per the fines levied against Midland. Although it's in its infant stages, consider FHSS two way radios for privacy instead. It's legal and in a less regulated part of the radio spectrum.


So called "subchannels" are no channels, but rather "subtones" - inaudible signals for opening squelch noise limiter. They provide NO privacy enhancement - contrary to what some say.

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