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                                               Walkie Talkies
        I was probably eight years old, when I got my first set of walkie talkies. They were a Christmas Present, and I remember being so excited that I went out in the snow in my pajamas to use them. Like most of the breed, they were capable of two way communication on a single channel (channel 14), at a power output of around 100 mw - a tenth of a watt. They used unloaded extensible antennas, like those found on the transistor radios of the day, and probably had terrible SWR. What saved them from frying their finals, was their relatively low power output. You could probably talk to another, similar walkie talkie, for a distance of two or three blocks. A quarter mile, was the range given on all of the boxes, brochures, and advertisements for this class of unit. You could also talk to base stations, and full powered mobiles at quite a bit further distance, or I should say, you could hear them. With only a fortieth of the power of these grown up units, you could often hear them, when they could not hear you, which was probably just as well.
        I vividly remember these little radios, even forty years latter. I remember how they looked, sounded and felt, and even how they smelled, when they were opened up. A number of boys my age, in the neighborhood had walkie talkies. Perhaps half of them worked, and nearly all had bent or broken antennas. Eight year old boys, as any mother will tell you, are not exactly the most careful beings on the planet. Ten year old boys are not much better. Fortunately, grown men are beyond all of that, and have left all such bad habits behind.
        These units tended to use a single nine volt battery. Times were different, and you generally had to go to the drug store, hardware store, or an electronics shop to get them; this was especially true of nine volt batteries. Nine volt batteries were expensive, back then, and the money usually had to come from your parents - this could take some time. It sometimes required some sacrifice. A nine volt battery could cost as much as two or three comic books, which sold for about 12 cents in the mid sixties. So you were very careful about conserving your batteries, because a dead battery could put a walkie talkie out of service for days or even weeks, before a new one could be begged, borrowed or stolen. Falling asleep while listening to the grown up CBs on your little walkie talkie, was a minor disaster, as you would be certain to wake to a radio with a dead battery.
        G.E. walkie talkies were around, as well as models from Midland, Radio Shack, Lafayette, Allied, and a number of others. These tended to be for adults, and were expensive. Many operated on more than one channel, and some could put out a watt, or even more, and thus needed to be licensed. Most of the boys that I knew, myself included, had inexpensive Japanese radios, under the brand names of Vagabond, Master Craft, Truetone, Sandasonic, or Ross. Though some were made here, these were mostly relabeled Japanese radios, marketed by American companies. A really lucky boy might have a set of Man From Uncle, Batman, or 007 walkie talkies. Many of the units sold to boys had a code key and Morse code printed on the face. Radio Shack had its Archer Space patrol line, which were essentially the same thing, but under the Radio Shack label.
        Walkie talkies were one of those things, like firearms, binoculars, microscopes, cameras, and flashlights, that were an absolute necessity for exploration, and for the resourceful young man. These were all the things that the scientists, soldiers, agents, and various others whom we admired, used as they went about their daily activities of saving the world, inventing things, exploring, and just generally being the heroes and leaders that we all knew we would some day be. So it would be best to have these early, familiarize ourselves with them, and get started right away. Who could say what discoveries were waiting, what adventures lay in store, or what dangers threatened?
        Walkie talkies did appear in the big Sears, and Penny's Christmas catalogs, and sometimes even in their regular catalogs. It was the stuff of dreams. This was when the country really was a different place. You could go through a Sears catalog, and if you had the money, order a shotgun (catalogue desk pickup only), a pair of binoculars, a set of walkie talkies, a motor bike, a fishing boat, a tent, sleeping bags, and a camp stove. You could also get a new carburetor to soup up your car (I didn't actually drive at eight years of age, but my dad seemed to have little trouble with it, so how hard could it be?), a set of tools, and even the outdoor boots and clothes that the avid adventurer needed. One thing that really stuck with me was that you could order an electric fence charger. My eight year old mind boggled at the possibilities. The Christmas catalogue was even better, with chemistry sets, microscopes, telescopes and home laboratories. It seemed to me that the man of action, the hero, the scientist, and the adventurer, could all equip themselves right from the Sears catalogue, without even having to trouble to leave the house.
        Still, though there was much imagination and satisfaction residing on the pages of the Sears catalogue, for the really hard core adventurer and enthusiast, a specialty catalogue was needed. These were smaller catalogues from places like Allied Radio, Lafayette, Radio Shack, Heath, and fabulous Edmund Scientific. This kind of stuff was right up there with Estes rockets, and gas engine airplanes. You would generally have to send away for these catalogues, by responding to ads in the Popular Science, or Popular Mechanics magazines. Each catalogue request was an operation in its own right. As an eight to ten year old, you were quite used to getting no respect and not being taken seriously, so you had to word these requests very carefully, and then painstakingly print them in your best adult style of handwriting, so that they would not have a clue that you were just a kid, and did not really have much money to spend. In retrospect, I doubt they cared, and would probably have sent the catalogues, had the requests been printed in crayon on the back of a grocery bag; but it can't hurt to make sure.
        These electronic catalogues were wonderful, and I spent many happy hours poring over them. They were filled with radios of all types, including CBs, shortwaves, stereos, and even the occasional bit of ham radio gear. They also had test equipment, oscilloscopes, soldering irons, speakers, amplifiers, and page after page of parts. It was an adventure just paging through these marvelous books. I would drop not so subtle hints, particularly around the holidays, that all I needed in life, to become the ideal, happy, model child, was this or that radio. Knowing me inside and out, these claims were probably met by my parents, with a certain amount of skepticism. What I did end up with was the aforementioned set of walkie talkies, which were great fun, and a prized possession. Having them started me off on years of daydreams about bigger and better radios. These daydreams were probably more satisfying than the actual radio would have been. Reality is always a disappointment, when compared to a really good dream.
        So I had my walkie talkies, and had many imagined, and perhaps a few real adventures with them. I listened in, and occasionally could make myself heard, by the adult operators of the big CB radios. This could be especially satisfying at night. Being eight years old, and talking under the covers to someone on your radio, at 11:00 or 12:00 at night, long after you are supposed to be asleep, is very nearly more satisfaction than the spirit can bear. I talked to quite a few people on those little walkie talkies, and got to know many of the base operators nearby. These walkie talkies actually lasted until I was around 11 o r12 years old - an amazing achievement for an eight year old. By this time, I was ready for something a bit bigger.
        Sadly, I have no photos of those early units. I did not become a camera enthusiast until I was probably 12 years old, or so. By that time, those early walkie talkies had been lost or broken in one of our many moves. Actually, that fist set lasted over three years, before being worn out. What I do have photos of, are the first good, grown up sets of walkie talkies, which I got in my early teens, as well as those that I picked up latter on.
        Walkies talkies were a fun part of growing up, and really set our imaginations going. This early exposure, as kids, got lots of people involved in CB, Harm radio and electronics. Even today, I still enjoy playing around with CB radios, and walkie talkies. While the market today is dominated by little 49 MHz radios, the old 27MHz CB band still has some advantage, in regards to power and (under the right conditions) range.
                                      G.E. 3-5975C
       I hit my teens in the early seventies. My uncle worked at G.E. at the time, and he was often able to get deals on things, when the company offered employee specials on consumer electronics. G.E. would do this from time to time, and we had gotten good deals on radios, and stereo stuff; but nothing really special, as far as I was concerned. This year would be different. G.E. had some good quality walkie talkies, which it was selling cheap. Not only that, but I actually had enough money saved to get myself two of them - incredible. I told him what I wanted, and he put in the order. These were not toys, my uncle reminded me, and I would have to get them licensed. They put out two watts, on up to three channels, though crystals were only included for channel 14.
        A week or two latter, he came visiting, and had a package with him. My radios had arrived. I unboxed them and looked them over. I was so excited that I even read the instruction manual. These were heavy, good quality units, held together by screws in the back. The center loaded antenna promised good SWR and long range. Fully extended, this antenna was 48" long. There was a separate speaker and mike, with the mike angled towards the mouth, and the speaker surrounded by soft foam. Controls on the front of the unit included a battery test button, and a channel selector. I would need to purchase crystals to use other channels; but this would all come in time. There were top mounted controls for volume and squelch. This was, to my eyes, everything that a professional quality two way radio needed to be.
        The only downside was that each unit required eight AA batteries. This was a mighty blow to a boy in his early teens. I didn't have the money, so I would have to wait. It was a week, before I scraped the money together, and went  down to the drug store to get batteries. Sixteen AA batteries latter, I was on my way home, practically running the whole way. The whole thing had been rehearsed many times in my mind, and I knew just what to do. These units had separate little battery boxes on the bottom. A quick squeeze on either side released the battery box. I quickly filled them both, being careful to orient the batteries properly according to the diagrams printed on the insides of the battery holders. After a couple of minutes, I was done.
        Turning on the first radio, I heard a hiss, with faint voices in the background. I hit the transmit key a couple of times, sending a mighty two watt carrier out into the ether, twenty times the power of my previous radios; but got no response. Leaving the first radio on, I turned on the second, and keyed it up. There was the immediate high squeal of feedback; but it sounded better than the finest symphony. The radios worked and were able to receive each other. Within the year I would have crystals allowing me to talk on channels 14, 20 and 23.
        These radios allowed me to have something like a base station, with their long antennas, multiple channel selection, and two watt power. At any rate, it felt like a base to me. This was the major use to which I put them, staying up late, and talking to people from my room. I talked to quite a number of local people on these units. From my second floor bedroom, I probably had a range of a couple of miles. I also brought these along on some trips, and would sometimes stop and fire one up, just to see who I could talk to.
        I still have these radios, and they still work, though one of the battery holders is broken. I could probably fashion a new one, and probably will one day. For now, I can run the broken radio by attaching the leads of a 12 volt power supply directly to the connectors on the radio body. Not exactly portable; but not too different from when I first got these and used them primarily as miniature base stations.
                                                                    Radio Shack TRC-212
A few years after I got the walkie talkies shown above, I got my first real job, part time, as a busboy. I was probably taking home $100 - $125 a week, which was not bad money at the time, particularly for two days work. For a sixteen year old, this was good money, and high times. I picked up a number of toys, including this walkie talkie. This unit cost me roughly a weeks take home pay. Sadly, as much as I wanted to get a pair, I could only justify spending the money for one.  In addition to this, was the fact that I really didn't have any friends who were radio enthusiasts, so a pair of walkie talkies would have just sat, unused. At any rate, I had the pair of three channel units shown above, and could always use them, if there was a need for multiple units in the field.
        The TRC-212 was a 40 channel, 5 watt CB radio, with the capability of taking an external speaker and microphone, as well as an external antenna. It's own antenna was a 40" center loaded whip, which gave reasonable range. It had a separate speaker and microphone built in, and could be run from multiple power sources. It could even be set up, with external mike, power adapter, and antenna connector, to be used as a mobile unit in an automobile or a boat. As the ultimate walkie talkie, or a jury rigged base, this was everything a 16 year old boy could want in a CB transceiver.
        This walkie talkie cost $139; but figure $150 with batteries, tax, and other expenses. That would probably be something like $300 in today's money. This was more than the cost of some mobile units; but a mobile unit would also have needed an antenna, as well as either a car, or a regulated power supply to provide electricity. This unit spent most of its time plugged into a power adapter, and sitting on a table next to my bed. It was, I suppose, my first 40 channel base.
        This unit had a number of great features, for base or mobile use. For one thing, it could be run off of rechargeable batteries, which could be charged right inside of the unit itself, using an (optional) external charger. It could also be run directly from house current, using an (also optional) power adapter. The power adapter was a bit different from the charger, and plugged into a different place on the unit. Basically, the charger did not have clean enough power to run the radio, and a distinct hum could be heard when attempting to use it as a power source. The adapter ran the unit fine, and had nice clean power; but it did not have enough power to charge the batteries, nor was it able to sense when they were full.
        The unit had top mounted controls, for most functions, which included volume, squelch, and channel selection, as well as connectors for the external speaker and microphone. There was a standard PTT switch mounted in the usual place on the side. This one had a small button in the middle of the switch, which was used to illuminate the display. Connectors for the external antenna, as well as the charger and external power, are on the side of the unit, opposite the PTT switch. Ten rechargeable, or eight standard AAA batteries supplied internal power.
          The unit used a PLL circuit to synthesize all 40 channels, this dispensing with the need to have a separate pair of crystals for each channel. The channel selection was displayed on a then new fangled LCD, instead of the older, power robbing LED used on most bases and mobile. The display also showed when I Was transmitting, and indicated Power out, or signal strength. Moat of those with whom I spoke, could not even tell that this was a walkie talkie, and though I was using a mobile unit. Power was selectable between a full 5 watts, and one watt to conserve batteries.
        This was sort of the swan song of high quality walkie talkies. The unit had a metal frame, and was built like a tank. It was produced at that brief period after the introduction of the PLL and digital circuitry, which would turn out to be the ultimate development of the CB walkie talkie; but before the short cuts, and reduction in quality, driven by the demand for ever cheaper unit production. The next generation of radios would begin the economizing methods that were introduced to bring costs down in what was becoming an ever more competitive market. This was also just about the peak of popularity for CB radio, and sales would soon begin to slump, creating even more pressure to cut costs. This may very well be the best built, highest quality walkie talkie that Radio Shack ever made.
        These units had the range boosting side panels, that were supposed to help ground the radio to your body, and thus improve efficiency. What these actually did was to connect, via the screws holding the side panels on, to the frame of the unit. This was the chassis to which all of the internal components were grounded. Future generations of walkie talkies dispensed with the frame/chassis, and thus had no way to utilize such panels. This was also one of the last generations to have good quality, coil loaded antennas. The next generation of walkie talkies would dispense with a frame, and the one after, would begin the trend towards the smaller, cheaper, and far less effective rubber ducky type antennas. These two changes alone, would greatly reduce range.

                                                             Radio Shack TRC-216

A few years after getting the radios above, I picked up my first actual matched pair of 40 channel walkie talkies. Like the unit above, these were full fledged portable CB radios, with all forty channels, and a full four watts. These had digital displays, and PLL circuitry. They were, for the time, marvels of compact design. They were inferior to a full fledged base or mobile unit, only in their antennas, though the 40" center loaded antenna on this radio is nothing to complain about. This was the very next generation of walkie talkies, and seemed to be a cost reduction version of the TRC-212 shown above.
        The main LCD display shows the channel,  signal strength, and battery level. There are top mounted controls for channel selection, volume and squelch. This is also the location of the connectors for the external speaker and mike. rechargeable batteries were coming into their own, by the time I got this unit. Previously a bit of a specialty item, they were now getting to be quite common, though still rather expensive. This radio was capable of internally recharging its batteries, and also of taking an external power adapter.
        Connectors for the external power supply and charger, as well as for an external antenna, are on the left had side of the radio. Also on this side is the hi - low power selector, for conserving the batteries. High is four watts, low is one watt. The batteries themselves are loaded at the bottom of the unit. These units are designed to operate on ten rechargeable batteries, for a total of 12.5 volts. For use with regular batteries, a pair of dummy batteries is included to keep the voltage at the proper level. These are very capable radios; but I was a bit older when I got them, and they were unable to generate the excitement of my boyhood and early teens. Still, they were great radios to bring along on camping or boating trips, as they still are today. I still have these radios, and they still work. They are beginning to show there age, with the occasional crackle, or looseness in the battery compartment; but overall they are in good condition.
        Around the time I got these, I would get my first car, with my first CB radio mobile unit. This took some of the excitement out of the use of a walkie talkie as a base. In addition, by the mid seventies, CB would start to turn into a chaotic wasteland, nothing like the orderly and interesting place it had been during my childhood. Even so, the units are useful for outdoor activities, and I can get an honest five or six mile range out of them, under normal conditions. On my boat, across the water, or on a hill or in open country, I can get ten to twenty miles of range quite easily.  This is better than any of the new generation of 49 MHz FRS units can provide, despite the claims on their packaging.
        The TRC-216 was introduced at a time, when interest in CB radio was already waning, and when extreme competition was pushing prices down. So there were some shortcuts and cost saving measures taken. membrane switches replaced the old PTT button, and there was no separate battery pack. Compared to my older TRC 212, these were not quite as well made. There was no internal frame or ground; but the other side of this was that these units were smaller and lighter than their predecessors. A side by side photo of the two units shows that they are very similar in design and concept, as well as having the same features, and even the same display and some of the same switches. Even the same charger and power adapter are used.