Granted, there isn't much in the way of recognizable gadgetry in my new book, Now the Hell Will Start: One Soldier's Flight from the Greatest Manhunt of World War II. Most of the action takes place in the Indo-Burmese jungle, circa World War II—long before the advent of the integrated circuit. But that doesn't mean American GIs were entirely without nifty gear, much of which helped spur the development of our beloved modern toys. Read on for a rundown of three vital gadgets that took shape during the epic Allies vs. Axis throwdown, when geeks saved the world and my yarn's (anti-)hero went on the lam.
Motorola SCR-536 Given the company's recent woes, it's easy to forget that Motorola was once a lion of wireless tech. During WWII, the company's engineers were superstars of the field, and their masterpiece was the SCR-536 (pictured above). Colloquially known as the Handie-Talkie, the product is generally acknowledged to have been the world's first handheld, two-way AM radio. Incorporating five vacuum tubes into its design, the SCR-536 weighed in at a shade less than seven pounds—a whopping 26 pounds lighter than its closest rival. And, oh yeah, its max battery life (in receive mode only) was eight hours. How does that compare to your last RAZR?