What is the gadget that transcended its medium and became a national obsession? A gadget that set a new trend? Well, if you are wondering what we are talking about, then we uplift the veil now. We are talking about the citizen’s band radio from way back in the 1970s.
In fact, today we are going to talk all about it. Right from when it was invented, to the history that followed its inception! We hope to shed some light on this historical communication device that has now become a rare collectors’ item.
Let’s get on with it!
History of CB Radios
Al Gross, the man who pioneered the walkie talkie, came up with the CB radio in 1945. His company, the Citizens Radio Corp, sold Class B handheld CB radios to the public. They were limited by the technology of their time, unable to mass-produce radios for affordable prices.
The year 1958 saw the advent of the Class D variant of CB radios. They started out with 27 channels and operated at the 27MHz band, with the 40-channel radio we know of today, making its inception in 1977.
In a decade in which only a few people had car phones, the CB became the official mouthpiece for the American motorist. And, in the 1970s, Americans snapped up an average of 7 million CBs a year.
Rise of the CB Radio Community
By the 1960s, CB radios reached peak popularity. Businesses ranging from carpenters to engineers utilized them as a means of local area communication. It gained mass popularity amongst truckers and hobbyists.
With the newfound solid-state technology, the prices for these dropped even further along with size and weight. The cost to produce one became so low that everyone could afford one. Clubs were formed, and they came up with their own coded language, consisting of code words and the 10-code system.
In 1974, the price of gasoline skyrocketed, and the shock was felt all across the United States. Shortages developed quickly. In response, the United States government set about new laws. The interstate speed limit was lowered from 70 to 55 miles per hour.
The CB radio became the secret weapon for clock conscious truckers. The truckers were interested in going over 55 miles an hour, and thus, they used these radios to spy on speed traps and relay the information along to other truckers.
Initially, a license was required to operate a CB radio. Most people ignored it, however. Nicknames were created so that other people using the network could not overhear real names. Laws requiring a license were dropped eventually.
The bandwidth is divided into several channels. In 1969, channel 9 was used for emergencies, and channel 10 received preference as the highway channel. In the later years, due to the interference with channel 9, channel 19 became the commonly used highway channel.
The CB Radio Craze
By 1975, pop culture had embraced CB radios, inspiring the four-wheeled motorist to jump on board the CB bandwagon. CB radio companies like Midland Radio Corporation in Kansas City, Missouri, started churning out sets faster than a trucker could lay the hammer down.
Etiquettes developed during this craze. Although originally intended to warn other drivers of speed traps or roadside emergencies, chatting with other users became the norm. Chatting was considered okay, but it was not considered courteous to hold up the channel for more than a few minutes.
The End of an Era
As with most fads, the CB phenomena gradually died down. With the advances in technology such as cellphones and the internet, the CB phenomena were dragged down to its roots.
By the 1980s, four-wheelers swapped their CB radios out for cellphones. Treasured amongst those who still own one, the CB radio returned to its rightful owner, the humble trucker.
Even though they are obsolete today, your local Radio Shack will still sell you one of these CB radios, and it was sure to be the start of a fun new hobby!