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Walkie-talkies have a range of up to five miles, but cordless phones have a range of only up to about 100 yards. Why can't those geniuses at the big electronics companies figure out how to combine the two technologies and make a cordless phone with a range of several miles.

-- Jerry Dixon, El Cajon

No, no, Jerry. We want the geniuses to stop combining technologies for a while so the rest of us can catch up. So we can buy some digital thingy without having the thingy embarrassingly outdated before we get the credit card bill. Besides, I'm sure the geniuses would love to offer you a cordless, home-based phone with a handset you can bring along on your next trip to, oh, say, the electronics store. We checked in with James Wattage, our staff expert on communications, and he sets us straight on radio freeks and the myth of the walkie-talkie.

Basically, all of radioland is divided into frequencies (by the FCC); and those frequencies and associated broadcast power ratings are assigned to specific uses. Everything from wimpy baby monitors to monster clear-channel radio stations. (Think of a swim meet, with each competitor having his own lane.) As long as everybody stays in his neat little frequency slot, broadcasting at their neat little power ratings, life is relatively orderly. The power rating determines the potential distance your device can transmit. And herein lies the problem. You and lots of other cordless-phone users in the nabe share a frequencies that connect your phone base and handset. Lots of high-powered (long-distance) signals competing for supremacy would create a sort of aggravating neighborhood party line. You'd be so peeved at having to listen to the turnipheads next door trying to get the dog to talk to Granny up in Prineville, you'd probably rip your phone out of the wall.

Mr. Wattage also denies that your walkie-talkie will work over five miles. "Maybe in Death Valley," he scoffs. Such low-power devices can't even burrow through the average steel-reinforced wall or dense shrubbery. Wattage also asks you to think back to your last trip to the land of simulated fun up in Anaheim. If you used one of those Mickey-talkie things to keep track of the kids, then you know how difficult it is to find an empty frequency for your call. Like freeway gridlock with a soundtrack. Take a gander at one web site that lists only a fraction of the local frequency assignments: cityfreq.com:81/ca/sandiego/. Or try stupidscannertricks.com. Mmmmm�burgers.

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