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Cobra’s FRS-104 two-way radios

I never had a set of walkie-talkies as a kid (or a brother to share them with; but–sigh–that’s not your problem). It doesn’t matter though, because when it comes to gadgets, redemption for such sacrifices is never far away.

Walkie-talkies have gotten fancy enough to shed that kid-stuff nickname, as in the case of Cobra’s FRS-104 two-way radios. The radios (which are sold separately at $24.95 MSRP or as a pair at $49.95) are great fun as toys, and, when used properly, a nice, reliable communications device when a cell phone isn’t around.

The FRS-104s boast a two-mile maximum range (which lessens considerably when obstacles arise), 14 channels, call alerts and “roger” beep tones to confirm that your message has been sent, and auto-squelch to avoid weak transmissions (as well as a way to override auto-squelch so that you can get the maximum range.

CU Associate Editor Elizabeth Millard and I put the FRS-104s to a stern test. While she stayed in our palatial fifth-floor offices, I went outside and wandered the streets and skyscrapers of downtown Minneapolis. I was a good six blocks away before she started breaking up, leaving us both impressed.

My home test was equally strong. In our congested little neighborhood, I could still be heard (in a moving car, no less) eight blocks off. Presumably, two miles is what you get from a country hilltop.

The uses for these radios are many: Keep track of your kids when they’re roaming the neighborhood; find a wayward spouse at the supermarket; instead of blindly following someone by car to an unfamiliar destination, get spoken directions every step of the way.

Are these essential communications tools? Not in most cases, though I’m sure there are workplace applications we haven’t covered. But some gadgets are just plain fun, and that’s where these fit in.

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