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Handie-Talkie Radio

1940: Creating the Handie-Talkie Radio

Motorola traces its origins of portable two-way radio technology to the World War II Handie-Talkie military radio. Prior to the U.S. entering the war, Galvin Manufacturing Corporation anticipated the need for a handheld portable two-way radio that would “follow man in combat.”

Anticipating the need

The most famous radio of the World War II era, the Handie-Talkie SCR536 handheld two-way radio, almost never came to be. Former Motorola President Elmer H. Wavering recalled that engineer Donald Mitchell recognized the strategic value of portable communications after he observed a National Guard training exercise and saw how radios installed in vehicles were abandoned in the mud and confusion of battle. He returned to the company convinced that military communications had to follow man to the greatest degree possible and immediately began to engineer a radio that could be carried in the hand.

Designing a portable radio

The U.S. Army Signal Corps was not interested and considered it a stopgap radio because of its short range of about one mile (1.6 km). But Mitchell continued to improve the design. He and his team developed a two-way AM radio that a single person could carry and operate with one hand. Tuned using sets of crystals for transmitting and receiving, it was battery-powered and weighed just 5 pounds (2.2 kg). The Signal Corps soon realized that the light weight was ideal for a new type of soldier--the paratrooper--and by early 1941 awarded Galvin Manufacturing Corporation a contract for an experimental quantity.

In the soldier's hands

When the United States entered the war in December 1941, the company stepped up production to ship thousands of radio units to the front lines. Handie-Talkie radiotelephones became standard equipment for infantrymen as well as for paratroopers. By the time World War II ended, Motorola's handheld SCR536 Handie-Talkie two-way radio was an icon.