Al Gross, Cleveland Inventor of the Walkie-Talkie
By Admin

May 13, 2010

The following is a conversation between Jimmy and Tommy, who are working security at an Indians baseball game. This dialogue takes place via their walkie-talkies, which are provided to them at every game, obviously for mobile communication.

Jimmy: Another home run…go Tribe! We are having one heck of a great season!

Tommy: You got that right! I love this job…we’ve got the best seats in the house, AND we’re getting paid…summers in Cleveland are the absolute best, no question. Plus, we get WALKIE-TALKIES! THAT just takes the cake man…over.

Jimmy: Copy that! I remember when my sisters and I use to run around the neighborhoods speaking in codes with our walkie-talkies. It was an all-the-time-thing for whatever purpose we could find. There is no doubt that walkie-talkies are one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. Copy?

Tommy: Copy. The inventor of the walkie-talkie, Al Gross, was THE pioneer of mobile wireless telecommunication. He grew up right here in Cleveland. He was born in Canada, then moved here and was just mesmerized with radio communication. He took a steamboat trip on Lake Erie when he was nine years old. The radio operator let him listen to the radio, which turned him on to the whole radio communication thing. By the time he was twelve, he converted his basement into an amateur studio from scraps of equipment he fished out of junkyards. He got his amateur radio license when he was sixteen, and he…

(Jimmy cuts him off)

Jimmy: Tommy! How do you know all this?

Tommy: I know a thing or two about a thing or two, Jimmy. I do spend time in the library at Case, ya know, where I am studying wireless technology engineering for my undergrad. Afterall, Gross is the “father of two-way radio,” and he also went to Cleveland’s Case School of Applied Sciences, which is now part of Case Western Reserve University. Ultimately, he’s one of my heroes! Do you read me?

Jimmy: I read you. Does he still live around here? He must be really rich.

Tommy: No, he passed away in 2000. He was eighty-two years old and lived in Arizona. I would’ve loved to meet him. He played a huge role in two-way, air-ground communication in World War II. He developed the walkie-talkie in high school. Because of this, the US Office of Strategic Services, which is today’s CIA, recruited him to develop their communication systems. This was a major step forward for military intelligence in terms of communicating behind enemy lines for spies and combat.

Jimmy: That’s incredible. I mean think about all the things we use walkie-talkies for these days on a regular basis…for security at concerts and games, on movie and commercial sets, to meet up with your parents at Disney World or Cedar Point, by police and firemen…and just for straight up fun! They’re SO cool! You copy?

Tommy: Oh I copy…I know. Chester Gould, the cartoonist who created the comic strip Dick Tracy, heard about Gross and his walkie-talkies, and came to visit him. Gross had a wrist watch radio on his desk. Gould called him after the visit and asked him if he could use the watch on his character Dick Tracy…and so he did!

Jimmy: That is sweet! Al Gross made a big difference in the way communication happens in our world back then and today, period.

Tommy: Absolutely. He was way ahead of his time. He had money, but he never did get as rich as he could have. He held so many patents, but by the time his creations were embraced and people were ready for them, they expired. For example during the war, he created the radio pager…ya know the beeper. When he took it to the medical professionals in the late 1940’s, the doctors thought it would freak out their patients and disrupt their free time when they were out golfing. Back in the day, they didn’t want to be reached when they weren’t physically at the office. The Jewish Hospital in New York started using the beepers in 1950, but the FCC didn’t approve the device until the late fifties. By the time the electronic revolution hit big, a lot of his copyrights had already expired. Over.

Jimmy: You’re a walking Gross guru, aren’t you? I am impressed T-dog! Oh oh oh! It’s a home run…bases loaded! We’re just whoopin’ the other team…twenty-four to three!

(Jimmy whistles real loud right into his walkie-talkie.)

Tommy: Copy that! Yo bro…I could carry on for hours about how he invented the cordless phone, how he licensed his technology for garage door openers and so on and so forth, but it’s Tribe time to the maximum right now! Over.

Jimmy: Isn’t that right? I do love this Al Gross person! He is the man, straight up…another Cleveland goodie. Oh, oh, yeeeeaaaaaah…out of the park AGAIN! The Indian’s are champin’ this game!

Tommy: Cleveland in the house! Over and out.

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1 COMMENT
  1. Lori Baer

    Hi, I found your post about Al Gross and think it’s great! His widow, Ethel, now 86, is a friend of mine. I submitted a nomination to have Al Gross inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 2010.

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