In the present time, people have a lot of ways to connect with others from different places. Aside from telephones, the development of the internet and the invention of smart devices now enable us to sign up on social media platforms where we can share stories and start conversations with other people. However, back in the 70s, way before all the social media platforms we know today, there was this Citizen Band radio craze.
Citizen Band or CB radio had been around since the late 40′s. Through the late 60′s, it was primarily used by businesses to communicate between a base and mobile unit. Somehow, hobbyists picked-up on the service. Also, it was easy to get a CB license back then. All people need to do is fill out an application and mail it with your fee to the FCC. Back in 1971, the fee was $20, and unlike other similar services, there’s no need to take any technical exams.
With more baby boomers getting walkie-talkies, these same channels were shared with Citizen’s Band. It was cool to all-of-a-sudden, go from a one-channel walkie talkie with 1/10th of a watt to a 23-channel CB radio with 5 watts. Put up a ground plane or Astro Plane antenna and, boy, could you really get out. All of a sudden, non-tech types were talking tech – antennas with 3db gain or an SWR of 1.1 -language once confined to ham radio aficionados. This all took place in the early 70′s.
If you want to know more about this technology that was used in the 70s, read on as we’re giving you more information about the old school form of social media called CB Radio.
What is a CB Radio?
A Citizens Band Radio or CB Radio is a land mobile radio system that is used in many countries. It is a system that allows short-distance person-to-person bidirectional voice communication. It uses two-way radios operating on 40 channels near 27 MHz in the high-frequency band. It is also distinct from other personal radio services like MURS, FRS, UHF CB, and the Amateur Radio Service or ham radio.
In many countries, the use of CB Radio does not require a license. It can be used for personal or business communication. Like other land mobile radio services, several radios in a local area share a single frequency channel. However, only one can transmit at a time. The radio is usually in receive mode to receive transmissions of other radios on the channel. If the user wants to talk, he can press a “push to talk” button on the radio to turn on their transmitter.
History of the CB Radio
It was in the United States where the Citizens Band Radio service originated. It was created as one of several personal radio services regulated by the Federal Communications Commission or FCC. In 1948, these services started to allow citizens a radio band for personal communication, such as family and business communications and radio-controlled model airplanes.
The original CB radio was then designed for operation on the 460-470 MHz UHF band in 1948. There were two classes of CB radio, which are A and B. Class B radios had simpler technical requirements but limited to a smaller frequency range. During the late 1940s, Al Gross established the CB Radio Corporation to make class B handhelds for the general public. This went on to sell more than 100,000 units, primarily to the US Coast Guard and farmers.
On September 11, 1958, the CB service class D was created on 27 MHz. This is what became the popularly known Citizens Band. During this time, only 23 channels were available. The first 22 channels were taken from the former amateur radio service 11-meter band, and the 23rd channel was shared with radio-controlled devices. There are also several other classes of personal radio services for specialized purposes, like for remote control devices.
During the 1960s, CB Radio was popular among small businesses, such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers, truck drivers, and as well as among radio hobbyists. Advances in solid-state electronics by the late 1960s allowed the weight, size, and cost of the radios to fall. This gave the public access to a communications medium previously only available to specialists. With this, CB clubs were formed. Aside from that, a CB slang language also evolved alongside 10-codes, which were similar to those that are used in emergency services.
The Popularity of CB Radio in the 1970s
After the oil crisis in 1973, the United States government imposed a nationwide 55 mph speed limit. During these times, fuel shortages and rationing were widespread. Drivers, most especially commercial truckers, utilized CB Radios to find service stations with better supplies of fuel. Aside from that, they also used it to notify other drivers of speed traps and organize blockades and convoys during a 1974 strike protest about the new speed limit and other trucking regulations.
In the middle of the 1970s, the popularity of CB Radios spread further into the general population in the United States. CB originally required the use of a callsign in addition to a purchased license. However, when the CB rage was at its height, a lot of people ignored the requirement. What they did was they invented their own nicknames or handles.
The careless enforcement of the rules on the authorized use of CB Radio led to a further widespread disregard of the regulations, including antenna height, licensing, call signs, distance communication, and transmitter power. On April 28, 1983, individual licensing come to an end.
The fame of the use of CB Radios in the 1970s made its way into television, music, and films by the late 1970s. Movies like “Smokey and the Bandit” in 1977 and “Convoy” in 1978, made heavy reference to the phenomenon. Aside from movies, there were also television series like “Movin’ On” in 1974, and “The Dukes of Hazzard” in 1979, also helped cement CB Radio’s status as a nationwide craze in the United States over to the mid- to late-1970s.
In addition to movies and television shows, the phenomenon also inspired some popular and country music songs in 1975 and 1976. These include songs like “Convoy” by C.W. McCall in 1975, “The White Knight” by Jay Huguely in 1976, and “Teddy Bear” by Red Sovine in 1976, to name a few.
Even the former First Lady of the United States, Betty Ford, also used the CB Radio with the handle “First Mama.” Voice actor Mel Blanc was also an active CB operator who used “Bugs” or “Daffy” as his handle. He talks on the air in the Los Angeles area in one of his many voice characters. And just like the chat rooms we have today, CB also allowed people back then to get to talk to one another in a quasi-anonymous way.
With all of this popularity came more interference. It seemed that the 23-channel CB needed extending. Obliging, the FCC gave its citizens 17 more channels, and by the late 70′s, the 23 channel CB radios gave way to 40 channels.
However, it is not always good. There was a story in Dallas where two CB’ers kept interfering and stepping on each other while they transmitted. They dared each other to meet. They did, and when it was over, both were shot, and one died.
As time passed, a lot of casual users carried on inappropriate conversations on the airways, which jammed it up and made it impossible for truckers to communicate with each other when needed. Therefore, a lot of truckers stopped relying on CB Radio due to misuse.
Therefore, we can say that the 70s also partly contributed to the demise of CB Radio. And when cellular phones became available, even in their most primitive form, most drivers turned to them as they’re better and newer tools they can use for communication. With this, CB Radio became another 70s craze that eventually faded into the sunset.