Walkie-talkies were first invented by a Canadian named Donald (Don) Higgs in 1937 to provide pilots an effective way to communicate. Now, cellphones might have taken over the world of communication, but walkie-talkies remain a reliable and efficient medium to communicate and share information. They are still widely used by police officers, military, event management, and recreational purposes.
In this article, I show you how you can connect two walkie-talkies. For this, I answer the following questions:
- What are these walkie-talkies?
- How do they work?
- How do they communicate?
- How to connect walkie-talkies?
But first, let me give you a short explanation of how you easily can connect two or more walkie-talkies:
What are Walkie-Talkies?
Walkie-talkies are communication devices that work on a shared and single frequency of radio waves. They are handheld transportable radios which are battery-powered. Here are the components of a standard walkie-talkie:
- Either microphone or speaker for a half-duplex walkie-talkie and both microphone and speaker for a full-duplex one (to speak/listen to information)
- Antenna (to send and receive waves)
- Transmitter doubling as a receiver (transceiver)
- PTT button, which is an abbreviation for push-to-talk
- On/off switch button.
- Volume buttons
- LCD Display (this is the latest addition – to display the channel or frequency, battery life, etc.)
The microphone/loudspeaker essentially works as an intercom system. Its basic components are a loop of wire, a magnet, and a funnel of paper or plastic to either receive or generate sound. The direction of the electrical current defines the dominant function of the device.
The fact that one could walk and talk at the same time using walkie-talkies was its standout feature. At the time of its invention, we had telephones attached to walls restricting our movements while communicating with others.
The walkie-talkies are still prevalent in today’s cellphone-congested world because of their extreme reliability in emergencies or areas lacking a network. Moreover, with the half-duplex version, the communication stays less chaotic as the person on the other side won’t be able to cut you off like in a cellphone.
Now that we have a better understanding of what walkie-talkies are, their components, and their advantages over cellphones or modern communication devices, let’s explore how they work.
To communicate over walkie-talkies, all the parties need to share the same channel/frequency band.
How Walkie-Talkies work
When you push the PPT button (push-to-talk) to communicate, your voice gets transformed into radio signals which become a part of the electromagnetic spectrum traveling at the speed of light. The transmitter on the other devices receives the radio signals, and through the speaker, the signals get transformed back into the voice.
Since the number of frequencies is limited, there are chances you might witness interference. This happens because too many frequencies might share the airways making it difficult to pass your communication through.
FRS is an abbreviation for Family Radio Service, and GMRS is for General Mobile Radio Service. These are the set of frequencies allocated by Government for the public use operating at 460 MHz.
GMRS: These devices are powerful than FRS. They operate at 5 watts, offer long-distance communication, and can only be used by licensed radios.
FRS: These devices, operating at 0.5 watts, are best for short-distance communication and are ideal devices for hiking, trekking, or other recreational activities.
CTCSS stands for Continuous Tone-Code Squelch System and DCS for Digital-Coded Squelch. These are the technologies developed to encode your signals and eliminate any stranger tuning in your channel. You can find these technologies mostly in industrial-grade walkie-talkies.
CTCSS is an analog system used to reduce unwanted disturbances from strangers on a two-way radio. Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) regulates the CTCSS tones.
When multiple groups share a single frequency, this technology blocks the other groups based on their CTCSS tones or no CTCSS. This technology only unmutes the user if they are carrying the right sub-audible audio.
Don’t worry. Human ears can’t detect or hear these sub-audible audio tones, but communication-grade speakers like the ones in walkie-talkies can detect such tones.
On the other hand, DCS has a wider signal spectrum occupying more bandwidth. This means that the technology might not distort the signal from strangers but can degrade a wide signal containing multiple frequencies.
In case your two-way radios are not connecting on the same channel, it might be because of their CTCSS settings. If the CTCSS function is not deactivated on your device, it sends a beep tone with your voice message. The beep tone might be unacceptable on the device and hence blocks your signal, just like a bouncer deciding who goes through the gates.
To resolve this issue, check if CTCSS is deactivated on your device. To deactivate CTCSS on your device, clear previously added CTCSS codes, if any. For detailed instructions on this, check the user manual of your walkie-talkie.
How to get Walkie-Talkies on the same Channel / How to sync Walkie-talkies
If you want to connect/sync your walkie-talkies, firstly, they need to be compatible. If you are using GMRS/FRS two-radios that work range frequency, it should not be a problem.
Step 1: Finalize the channel on which you want to communicate with your team
Step 2: Check the selected channel on the screen
Step 3: To save your chosen channel, push the PTT button
Step 4: Share the channel number/frequency with your team
For other team members:
Step 1: Scan the channels to find yours
Step 2: Select the required channel
Step 3: Push the PTT button to save the channel
In case your walkie-talkies are not connecting, they might not have compatible DCS (Digital Coded Squelch codes).
Also, note that the quality of communication is not affected by the number of connected walkie-talkies.
In case you were wondering whether you can connect walkie-talkies from different brands, then the answer yes. Yes, you can connect walkie-talkies of different brands as long as they are on the same frequency. But there is a possibility that the radios might not work on the same number channel. This means channel number 2 on device A can be channel number 7 on device B.
So, make sure to check different radio channels and their equivalent channels on other frequency levels.
Most walkie-talkies, in general, have almost 22 channels. Once you see your channel number/frequency on the screen, push the PTT button to save it.
Conclusion – How to connect Walkie Talkies
Connecting walkie-talkies is as simple as deciding on a channel, selecting the same on your device, and pushing the PTT button. But for them to function properly, there are certain technicalities that you need to understand and set.
Walkie-talkies are not only relevant and functional in the digital technology era, but they are also fun and interesting devices for children and adults to explore.