Citizens band radio

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Citizens band radio (sometimes called "CB radio") is a radio service. No license is required in the United States for the use of CB radio.

CB radio was a popular fad in the 1970s. Today, it is used primarily by truck drivers.

Frequencies and channels

CB radio frequencies run between 26.965 MHz and 27.405 MHz. They are organized into 40 "channels." Channel 9 is reserved for emergency communications and traveler's assistance.[1]

CB (class D) started with 23 channels ('carved' out of the 11 meter Amateur band in 1958). At the height of the popularity of CB in the 1970s, the band was expanded to 40 channels, taking effect in 1977. The FCC dropped its requirement that CB operators be licensed in the early 1980s. As of September 1982, the FCC was planning to end the CB licence requirement. Applications were at 55,000 per month down from the 1,000,000 plus applications per month during the CB boom in the mid 1970s. Many CBer's ignored the licensing requirements anyway. There were so many requests, and such a long wait before your license arrived in the mail, that the FCC allowed you to use the letter 'K' followed by your initials and your zip code, until you got your license. This hodgepodge & lack of control of the licensing, also contributed to the end of the license requirement.

Originally, channel 10 was the "trucker's channel" (one of the 7 legal channels that could be used to talk to other people that were not affiliated with your license) - however, this caused a lot of interference with channel 9, the emergency channel, and truckers & others were encouraged to find another channel; so today channel 19 is the most popular channel among truck drivers, but there are exceptions in some geographic locations and highways (for example, channel 17 on Interstate 5 on the U.S. West Coast).

As previously stated, of the original 23 channels, 7 were legally used to communicate with inter-licensee's; channels 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 & 23 (and channel 9 for emergency communications). (This all changed with the advent of the 40 channel system - after which only channel 9 was assigned for special use. The remaining channels could only be used by intra-licensee communications. Channel 23 was used on a shared basis with class C paging systems (and the paging system could have a maximum output of about 20 Watts (25 W input) - while the normal CB channels had a maximum output of 4 Watts {approximately 6 watts input} up from the 3.5 W output (5 watts input) prior to January 1, 1977. This explains why several CB radios of the day could be legally modified for class C service to put out 20+ watts by strapping a resistor - most notably were Johnson & Tram CB's that had the resistor in their plate circuit. Channel 16 was the informal SSB only channel.


REACT (which originally stood for Radio Emergency Associated Citizens Teams), now known as REACT International with the C standing for Communications in place of Citizens, is an organization promoting the use of CB radio for emergency communications. REACT was founded in 1962. They pioneered the use of CB channel 9 as a special emergency-use-only channel, which was later officially adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in the early 1970s. Between 1969 and 1975, REACT was sponsored by the General Motors Research Labs. They reorganized as an independent nonprofit organization in 1975.[2]

Today, with the decline in the use of CB except by truck drivers, and the popularity of cellular telephones, REACT International although they still monitor CB channel 9 nowadays spends most of its effort on the emergency applications of amateur radio.

Another organization that monitored ch 9 in the 60's & 70's was ALERT.

Illegal activity

Illegal activity is popular on CB. Modifications to CB radio transceivers (and many so-called Ham radios) are often done for purposes of increasing transmitting power and/or frequencies beyond that which is legal.

"Skip shooting" refers to on-air conversations which make use of Sporadic-E "skip," a condition in the atmosphere which increases the range of transmissions on certain portions of the radio spectrum (it was not wise of the FCC to place a band of channels in a frequency range that has the capability of talking around the world on less than 5 watts, and then make it illegal to do so). According to FCC rules, one may only communicate with a station up to 250 kilometers (155.3 miles) away.[3]

"Freebanding" refers to transmitting on nearby frequencies outside of the official channels. This is done using illegally modified equipment.

CB radio is governed by Part 95 of the FCC regulations.

Popular culture fad

Three events in 1973-1974 brought CB radio into the public consciousness where it remained a fad for most of the rest of the 1970s:

  • The oil crisis in 1973 when the Arab members of OPEC staged an oil embargo against countries that had supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War.
  • The implementation of the federal 55 mile-per-hour speed limit in 1974.
  • A 1974 strike by truck drivers which was largely to protest the speed limit.

Truck drivers and regular motorists alike discovered CB as a way to keep each other informed about which gas stations were open, and where speed traps were located. Soon the media was running reports on the use of CB by truck drivers, and with the increased public interest in the lives of long-distance drivers (fed by the TV show Movin' On and the movie White Line Fever), the general public wanted in on CB too.

By 1976 CB had become one of the major fads of the decade, leading to the inevitable songs ("Convoy" by C.W. McCall, "The White Knight" by Cledus Maggard) and movies (Smokey and the Bandit, Citizen's Band) cashing in on the fad. The fad had largely run its course by 1979 when The Dukes of Hazzard debuted, but CB radio as a communications medium (as opposed to the popular culture fad) remained popular well into the late 1980s-early 1990's before being displaced by newer forms of communications, including cellular telephones, the Family Radio Service, and the Internet.

However, cell phones require a monthly fee - whereas with a one time purchase of good CB equipment (some times cheaper than a cell phone), one can reliably talk from one side of the town (or county) to the other to one's family and/or friends.

See also


External links