What is the origin of the word 'Walkie-talkie?' And why that word sounds so childish. For me it is associated with a toy phone for kids or something like that. Walkie-talkie seems to be a serious thing, but it sounds foolishly.

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Per Wikipedia:

Canadian inventor Donald Hings was the first to create a portable radio signaling system for his employer CM&S in 1937. He called the system a "packset", although it later became known as a "walkie-talkie". In 2001, Hings was formally decorated for the device's significance to the war effort. Hings' model C-58 "Handy-Talkie" was in military service by 1942, the result of a secret R&D effort that began in 1940.

The first device to be widely nicknamed a "walkie-talkie" was developed by the US military during World War II, the backpacked Motorola SCR-300. It was created by an engineering team in 1940 at the Galvin Manufacturing Company (forerunner of Motorola). The team consisted of Dan Noble, who conceived of the design using frequency modulation; Henryk Magnuski, who was the principal RF engineer; Marion Bond; Lloyd Morris; and Bill Vogel.

The first handheld walkie-talkie was the AM SCR-536 transceiver from 1941, also made by Motorola, named the Handie-Talkie (HT). The terms are often confused today, but the original walkie-talkie referred to the back mounted model, while the handie-talkie was the device which could be held entirely in the hand. Both devices used vacuum tubes and were powered by high voltage dry cell batteries.

What I find interesting about this history is that what we have today keeps the phrase walkie-talkie, even though it is hand-held, and it would have been more appropriate for us to have kept handie-talkie instead.

  • Lots of tech keeps using the name of the original version. Although "tape" as a synonym for "record" is starting to fall out of use in some contexts. But a "phone" these days is often more accurately described as a "pocket computer". Whichever word sounds better or good enough, and is unambiguous, is likely to stick longest, I'd guess. – Peter Cordes Apr 10 at 10:42
  • "Walkie-talkie" has a better rhyme, and a more pleasant alternation between front and back consonants. – Henning Makholm Apr 10 at 14:27
  • 4
    "handie-talkie instead." but the main selling point is that you can walk with it, not that you can hold it in your hand... – Display name Apr 10 at 14:39
  • On that last point, the explanation I heard as a kid in the 90s (when we had landlines and no cell phones) was that the "walkie" part referred to being able to take it with you wherever you went. – Izkata Apr 10 at 15:28

According to etymonline, it was coined in the year 1939 during World War II. It is an army slang, from walk (v.) + talk (v.).

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