These are the walkie-talkies that started it all. As a kid in the 80s, these were a gift from someone, not sure who, but I do remember opening the carton, getting a pair of 9 volt batteries and giving them a go. It didn’t take long to discover the missing features of this classic model.
First, no volume control. Turn them on and you get a blast of static on the speaker. They were a bit loud, and, completely unusable to sneak around the house and yard to chat in private without the parents or others hearing. Maybe that was by design, not a cost cutting measure.
Second, no squelch. This was common on almost all toy walkie-talkies of the era. We were used to that. Just static. That meant that you did not leave these on too long if you weren’t using them. You certainly wouldn’t leave them on waiting for a top secret message to come in from a distant station.
It didn’t take long before the antenna would bend on one or both of these units. The only reason to extend the antenna at all was to be able to reach farther than the other side of the room you were playing in. It was necessary for the DX.
In the Movies
When these appeared in Back to the Future II and III, we all knew there was something off. We knew these didn’t have squelch in the real world, nor did they work from one end of town to the other. Perhaps Doc modified them.
Let’s take a look at the packaging:
These operated on 49.860 MHz, close to the 6 meter band. However, they were AM modulation, so the 70mw input power combined with AM modulation ensured these wouldn’t be heard anywhere outside of your yard.
To add to the fun, they included the “ten codes” on the back of the packaging.
I do remember having other models of these types of walkie talkies, and one having flexible bendy antennas and a CW key on the front, with the CW alphabet engraved on the front for reference.
These seemed, at the time, to be more advanced. They were smaller, slimmer, and did not look as much of a toy as some of the others did.
Sparking the Interest in the Radio Hobby
These, along with all of the other models of toy walkie-talkies, contributed to my interest in the radio hobby. Perhaps it was the lack of features I wished they had (squelch and long range). Perhaps it was wondering how and why these didn’t work long range like the broadcast AM and FM radios. There was certainly a progression from these to CBs (first walkie-talkies, then mobile/base stations), then to Amateur Radio.
A New Generation
Today you can buy a pair of FRS walkie talkies which are rechargeable, small antenna, with squelch and multiple channels for about the same price as these were back in the late 80s. And, the FRS radios have quite a bit of a further reach than these do.
Perhaps walkie-talkies will continue to be toys kids play with and perhaps that will eventually bring them into the hobby.