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The History of CB Radio

Citizen Band radio or CB radio is a short distance radio device that operates with 40 channels in the 27MHz (or 11m) band. As two-way radio, it is popular in the US and many countries with construction workers, movie production crews, warehouse staff and others such teams, who may be separated over short distances at work. Some countries may require licensing to use it whereas that’s not necessary in the US and many other countries. CB radio’s popularity is marked by its ease of use and low costs of operation. It would be really interesting to chart the route that this ubiquitous radio mode has taken ever since its inception.

CB Radio History: The When and Why

Radio bandwidths were cleared for personal use by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the mid-1940s. Of the frequency bands cleared by FCC then, one particular band that fell in Class D of the specifications, became popular as Citizen Band radio by 1958. It did not have to address the Ultra High Frequency band’s complex technical requirements and operated with one channel. So it was user friendly and with its range of 11 meters only, it was also popularly referred to as “11 meters” by its users. But even then, it needed specialists to operate it and looked fairly intimidating to the general user with its vacuum tubes and transistors, which made the device large.

With the advent of solid state devices by the late 1960s, CB radio acquired a new avatar. It was smaller, less complex to use, lighter and less expensive. Its popularity spread wider and its users came together as CB Clubs and even developed the CB slang for use over CB radio in akin to the important codes used in other radio modes.

The history of CB Radios as it entered the 1970s goes with the events of the period. Its range for transmission had improved. And during the early part of the decade, the oil crisis enhanced the popularity of CB radio with truckers and other long distance road travelers alike. It gave them the chance to check with other motorists for the best places along the road to look for cheap fuel pumps. With such a huge following for CB radio, it even gave chance for its users to randomly connect with people with whom they could interact with nicknames similar to the Internet chat rooms of today.

By the 21st century, the popularity of cellular networks, Ultra High Frequency (family radio stations) and the Internet removed CB radio from its popularity. The need for a long antenna and poor performance in enclosed spaces dissuaded many users from utilizing it any longer. People don’t find t exciting anymore. But even today one can operate it with several ease of use and efficiency features such as RF gain, automatic level control and others. Almost all the CB radios in used in the US today are AM (amplitude modulation) and some that use single sidebands. Even the antennas perform better with shorter antennas that have loading coils to replace longer antennas.

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