Discover Motorola's heritage through the stories behind some of our biggest innovations. A true pioneer in radio, Motorola provided communications for police in the early years of two-way radio communication and invented the world's first portable cellular phone system. Learn more right here.
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.
1943: Connecting Soldiers in the Field
When the U.S. Army Signal Corps needed a longer-range radio for front-line troops, Galvin Manufacturing Corporation responded with the SCR300 model, the world's first FM portable two-way radio.
A need for military FM radios
During World War II, the U.S. Army Signal Corps undertook a series of tests to settle the debate whether AM or FM radios had better voice quality over distances. They tested radios that were exactly the same except for AM or FM circuitry under the same field conditions. They concluded that the quality of voice transmission over FM was superior to that over AM. With FM, the signal was not subject to static interference from motors or other electrical sources.
To a radio operator in a fast-moving tank or jeep, this was a wonderful improvement over AM sets that were nearly useless in these situations. To the foot soldier, FM meant clearer communications on the front lines. And to have a radio that was both FM and portable was "the infantryman's dream."
Building on experience
Galvin Manufacturing Corporation, which already was experienced in building Motorola FM mobile two-way radios for police cars, submitted an FM portable radio for testing. The model SCR300 radio, designed by Daniel E. Noble to work in the very high frequency (VHF) band, proved superior over other manufacturers' radios.
The 35-pound (15.9-kilogram) backpack radio had a range of 10 miles (16 kilometers) or more, could be tuned to various frequencies within the 40-48 MHz range using only one pair of crystals, and had remarkable frequency stability.
The SCR300 radio also met military requirements including simplicity of use and assurance that the time of day, weather conditions and geographical location would not affect the range of the signal.
World’s first FM portable two-way radio
The SCR300 radio, the first and only portable FM radio used by infantry soldiers, was used widely throughout Europe and the Pacific. The walkie-talkie, as it was called, provided critical radio links at Anzio, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and Normandy. One general declared that the SCR300 radio was the most useful communications radio employed in the Battle of the Bulge, and helped turn the tide of battle in favor of the Allies.
Beginning production in 1943, Galvin Manufacturing Corporation made more than 45,000 units before the war ended in 1945.