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Alfred J. Gross - Famous Inventor

: Alfred J. Gross
: 22-February-1918
: 21-December-2000
: Canada
: Case Western Reserve University
: Inventor

About Inventor

Alfred J. Gross was the inventor of several handheld communication devices, including the first walkie-talkie. Gross began his life-long romance with wireless communications at age nine during a cruise on Lake Erie. While exploring the ship, Gross met the radio operator and was invited into the radio room to listen to the transmission. The sound of wireless telegraphy fascinated him so much that he begged his parents to buy him a crystal set, an early radio.


His interest and knowledge in radio technology had grown considerably by the time he in 1936 entered the BSEE program at Cleveland's Case of Applied Sciences (now a part of Case Western Reserve University). He was determined to investigate the unexplored frequency region above 100 MHz. Between 1938 and 1941, soon after the invention of the walkie talkie in 1937 by Donald Hings, he created and patented his own version of the "walkie-talkie".

Gross began to build a ham radio from scavenged junkyard materials. By age fifteen he was fabricating his own metal radio chassis in a metal working class. A year later he earned his amateur operator's license. He was now a ham radio operator. The next step for Gross was to build a handheld device—the walkie-talkie—to communicate. He wanted to talk with other ham operators while on the move.

His hobby began to develop into a potential career. By 1938, while a student in electrical engineering at Case Western Reserve, in Cleveland, Ohio, Gross had succeeded in inventing a two-way handheld radio using miniaturized components. He then started exploring ways to use frequencies above 100 MHz. By the end of the 1930s, he had built two models that operated at 300 MHz and could transmit a distance of 38 kilometers (30 miles). As World War II began, Gross' invention would take on a critical function.

In 1941 Gross was invited to demonstrate his walkie-talkie to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). That meeting resulted in citizen Gross becoming Captain Gross and the initiation of the Joan/Eleanor project, a two-way ground to air radio system for military and espionage use. This system would enable personnel on the ground and behind enemy lines to communicate with high-flying airplanes. These transmissions could not be intercepted by the enemy as the radios operated at higher frequencies then the standard available transceivers. This feature enabled undetected gathering and reporting of enemy military movements.

Long after the war, Gross received recognition for his work. His contribution was cited as significantly shortening the war through the successful gathering of intelligence. The net result was the saving of countless lives. This "Top Secret" project was not declassified until 1976.

Later years

In 1950 he tried in vain to interest telephone companies in mobile telephony. Bell Telephone was uninterested, and other companies were afraid of Bell's monopoly on transmission lines.

Gross continued inventing, and began working as a specialist in microwave and other communications systems for companies such as Sperry Corporation and General Electric. He continued working until his death at age 82.

Awards Received by Inventor

1992: Fred M. Link Award from the Radio Club of America

1984: IEEE Centennial Medal from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, for his work in VHF and UHF mobile radio.

1997: Marconi Memorial Gold Medal of Achievement from the Veteran Wireless Operators Association

1998: Eta Kappa Nu's Vladimir Karapetoff Eminent Members' Award

1999: Edwin Howard Armstrong Achievement Award from the IEEE Communications Society

2000: IEEE Millennium Medal


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