CB Radio - the original social network

Who would have thought the humble CB radio would be 25 years old this week?  A fairly basic piece of kit, with a range of only a few miles with the standard arieal.  If you upgraded your kit for a booster you could reach in excess of 20 miles!  There were 40 channels that you could choose, with channels 14 and 19 being the meeting places - the place where you would go to meet people.  1-9 for a copy?

Once you found your friend (or a stranger) that sounded interesting, you would pick a channel and both would move to there.  Now there was no assurance that that channel was free; there could have been people already talking there.  But that was the beauty of it, you just never knew who you would meet.  With only a few miles range, it was rare that all the channels were busy as people moved in and out of range.

Living in the South of Scotland, we have the main trunk road used by the lorries between the UK and Ireland.  So whenever a boat came in, you would give it a couple of hours to let them get up to your area, and then you would hear all the lorry drivers (we never called them truckers in the UK) chatting as they drove down south into the heart of England.

One of the many limitations of CB radio, was that only one person could talk at once.  So conversions always had to end with "over" so people knew you have finished pontificating and it was someone elses turn.  But you could make out accents and different voices, and it wasn't long before you recognised your own community coming online as it where.

My father used CB radios for his company to enable his tractor/digger drivers to easily communicate, for free!  All it cost was the price of the handset and nothing more - you were ready to go.  I rigged up my own CB radio using a 12volt transformer and a biscuit tin for the arieal mag-mount.  Many a night my mother would come in and shout at me to turn that "bloody thing" off and go to sleep.  My handle back in those days was SiteMaster, after the JCB digger!  If memory serves me right, the handle Silver Ghost was very popular, with every area boasting their own.

In many ways I miss the CB radio especially on long motorway journeys.  As kids we would be allowed to use the CB on journeys and it really did make a 5hour car journey pass very quickly.  Nowadays it's all cell/mobile phones and that community aspect as been completely lost.  You would never ring up the person in front just for a chat!  But in the CB world that is exactly what you did, or just sit there listening on other peoples conversations (it wasn't secure by any stretch!).  All for free!

Reading the piece on the BBC there I see the network is still alive, so maybe I should go to my fathers garage and rumage around for an old handset and see who is still around.



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