Hello. We are here. This is now. We are us. 

According to the Radio Reference Wiki, a “Talkgroup” refers to virtual radio channels created for/by a Trunked Radio System, which itself is a specialized repeater system allowing for channelized, semi-private conversations via radio frequency. 

It is, this wiki continues, an example of statistical multiplexing.

But for our purposes, we can say that a talkgroup is band of municipal radio frequencies that are completely unknown and inaudible to the public at large—but are an indispensable form of communication for the people who make society function.

I first learned of the word, talkgroup—and it is one word, and not two—I first learned the word “talkgroup” on a train platform in Oakland, California, where I used to live. There was a bright blue sign at the edge of the platform. It had probably been there forever, but somehow I had never seen it. It said, “Entering the K Talkgroup.”

After noticing the first one, suddenly those blue signs leapt out at me every time I took the train. Entering the M Talkgroup. Entering the C Talkgroup. And so on. 

These signs, I learned, are there to tell conductors what frequencies to tune to to communicate with the other trains. 

I love this. I love the idea that all around us, flying through the air, are conversations about how to keep the world running, all happening on secret communication channels. Or, not secret exactly, because they are open to anyone who has the wherewithal to listen in. 

My name is Sam Greenspan. I’ve been making radio almost half my life. If you know my work, you might know that I’ve spent the past three years creating a podcast of speculative journalism called Bellwether. Bellwether is coming—this is not that. 

What this is—what this Talkgroup is—it’s my secret frequency for getting out dispatches that I don’t think can wait. And if you see yourself as part of the same network, if you believe you also have a role to play in keeping this train running—then listen in. And talk back.    

And so, hello. We are here. This is now. We are us. Welcome to the Talkgroup. See you at the next station.