why was the walkie talkie invented

The Walkie-Talkie: How a Wartime Necessity Revolutionized Communication

Imagine being deep in the wilderness, far from any cell towers or Wi-Fi signals, and still being able to communicate with others miles away. Or picture soldiers on the battlefield, needing to coordinate their movements and strategies without the enemy intercepting their messages. These scenarios would have been impossible without the invention of the walkie-talkie.

The Birth of the “Packset”

The story of the walkie-talkie begins with a Canadian inventor named Donald Lewes Hings. Born in England in 1907, Hings immigrated to Canada as a child and spent much of his youth and adult years in Rossland, British Columbia. He was a self-taught engineer with a passion for radio technology.

In the 1930s, Hings was working for the Consolidated Mining & Smelting Company (CM&S) when a problem arose. The company needed a way for their bush pilots flying over remote areas to communicate with prospectors on the ground.

At the time, mobile radios were bulky, vehicle-mounted systems that used Morse code. This was impractical for pilots and prospectors working in the rugged wilderness.

Hings saw an opportunity. He set to work creating a portable, two-way radio that could transmit voice communications over long distances. In 1937, he unveiled his invention: the “packset,” a 12-pound device equipped with a folding antenna and batteries. It had a range of over 130 miles and could send and receive signals while in motion. CM&S began using the packset to great success.

The Walkie-Talkie Goes to War

When World War II broke out in 1939, Hings realized his invention could have military applications. He gifted the design to the Canadian government, which began producing the packset for Allied troops. Hings himself was “loaned out” to the National Research Council in Ottawa, where he worked from 1940 to 1945 to improve the technology.

Hings’ most famous wartime design was the C-58 Packset, which became known as the “walkie-talkie” after a journalist saw a soldier using it to communicate while walking. The C-58 had several key features that made it ideal for combat:

  • Waterproofing to withstand harsh conditions
  • A speech scrambler to prevent enemy interception
  • A noise filter to cancel out the sounds of gunfire and explosions
  • Improved earphones for clearer audio

The walkie-talkie proved invaluable on the front lines. It allowed soldiers to coordinate their movements, call for backup, and warn of incoming attacks, all without revealing their positions. According to telecommunications historian David Colville, Hings’ invention “saved the lives of thousands of British, Canadian, and American troops during the Second World War.”

A Lasting Legacy

After the war, Hings continued to tinker and invent. He created over 50 patents and worked on projects ranging from aerial geophysics to environmental research. But his most enduring legacy remains the walkie-talkie.

parts of a walkie talkie and their functionsToday, walkie-talkies are used not just by the military, but by everyone from police officers to event staff to outdoor enthusiasts. They’ve also paved the way for other mobile communication devices, from cell phones to satellites.

Looking back, it’s clear that the walkie-talkie was more than just a cool gadget. It was a groundbreaking invention born out of wartime necessity – one that forever changed the way we communicate and connect with each other, no matter where we are in the world.

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