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Author Topic: The CB "explosion". Why?  (Read 32260 times)
KK5DR
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« on: February 21, 2015, 03:42:43 PM »

I was a teenager in the 70's and early 80's, so I know when CB radio "exploded". It grew at a huge rate and peaked in the early to mid 80's. It seemed that nearly everyone had a CB mobile or base set.
What I would like to know, is why did it grow, when it did, because it was around for a long time before that, but suddenly it was wide spread in what seemed the blink of an eye.
Perhaps there are some fellows out there that can explain it better with more info than I have.
Since there are many hams today, that got their start on CB, it would be interesting to know more about the place so many of us got our first taste of two-way radio.
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W4KYR
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« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2015, 03:57:20 PM »

CB took off because of the gas crisis in 1973/74 , the lowering of the speed limit to 55 in 1974, truckers who wanted to go faster than 55 mph and used CB to avoid "Smokey Bear" (the cops) , a #1 song called "Convoy" in 1976 and whole bunch of popular movies like "Smokey and The Bandit" in 1977 (Which I think was second to Star Wars in popularity).  

By the mid 1970's CB was so popular that the FCC allowed more channels from 23 to 40. While the FCC always required licensing, CB got so big that the FCC eventually threw in the towel and I think by the late 70's ended requirements for CB licensing. CB became the FCC's "Three headed monster" as one CB magazine put it at the time.

At one point every town had two or three CB shops. They sold CB's, antennas and CB accessories. CB was huge. Remember this was before cell phones and the internet. So everyone in one town would congregate on one channel. We call it the home channel and it was where everyone would meet on the air. An on air chat room would be the best way to describe it. They were some fun times.

CB also enjoyed another but smaller resurgence in the mid 80's to the early 90's for awhile. This was fueled by the ease of rigs that where modified for extra channels or extra power. Then enthusiasts found that certain 10 meter radios could could be modified with a couple of diodes to get 'extra channels' like the "export radios" did.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2015, 04:08:54 PM by W4KYR » Logged

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AA4PB
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« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2015, 04:12:45 PM »

Technology changes around that time period probably also had a lot to do with it. Transceivers got smaller, less expensive, and included synthesizers so individual channel crystals were no longer necessary. A lot of the technology also found its way into ham radio. Prior to the CB explosion hams that wanted to operate 2M FM had to obtain and modify commercial radios.
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KM4AH
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« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2015, 05:13:13 PM »

As I recall most of that happened during very low sunspot activity. When cycle 21 I think it was peaked in 1980 it pretty much killed the type of operation most of us were enjoying and made the regular channels almost useless for local activity further than your back yard. I don't think it ever returned to the local community get together that it was in the mid seventies.
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ONAIR
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« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2015, 05:43:28 PM »

In certain parts of he country, there is still quite a bit of CB radio activity.  However because of the internet and smartphones, many potential CBers have now switched to internet CB radio websites where they can talk to each other without the need for any antennas or equipment.  One example of this is:  http://www.cbradiochat.net
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W9GB
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« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2015, 06:21:47 PM »

Matt --

The CB Craze (or popularity explosion) was due to convergence of several different developments.
This is the history that I lived/experienced, first hand, not read in a book!

1. Interstate Highway Construction in 1960s and 1970s -- Increased Mobility.
Rapid growth of Interstate Trucking, replacing traditional railroad usage for freight.
More WW2 veterans packed up the kids for long-distance vacations, now by car (air travel was $$ and rare; passenger railroad usage dropped significantly).  
Golden Age of the Airstream and Winnebago Caravans.
They wanted something to do in the car or station wagon, besides an AM Radio!

2. MidEast wars: 1967 and 1973 Oil Embargos.
19 to 25 cents/gallon before 1973 --- to 65 to 75 cents/gallon after.
The Oil Embargo led to gasoline shortages for everyone, with many stations closed after sunset.
Diesel shortage was a concern for Midwest agriculture (unable to harvest or plant crops)

CB Radio became a quick and easy solution for automotive drivers and truckers to find open gasoline stations.  Nixon was gone by August 1974, and Ford was left with rampant inflation.

3. 55 MPH Speed Limit on Interstate Highways
In the 1970s, the US was using more oil that it produced (California, Texas, Oklahoma) for first time in its history.
Alaska pipeline was just started and not finished.  SO, importing oil from MidEast increased every year (OPEC Power). The national speed limit was set at 55 mph, in an effort to reduce usage (efficiency).
Jimmy Carter in 1977 tried to reduce US energy usage and increase efficiency, especially from foreign oil.
In 1977, there was a natural gas shortage in the middle of winter, as well.  Plants and some colleges, using only natural gas for heating and power were closed.

4. The Iranian Hostage Crisis (1979-1980) raised gasoline prices (75 cents/gallon to $1.25/gallon), BUT this did not increase CB sales.  
The Iranians released the US hostages, after Reagan / Bush were sworn into office. The 55 mph speed limit was lifted and the solar panels were removed from the White House.
--
Ironically, by 1983 numerous CB dealers were bankrupt or closed.  Even some radio equipment mfg. disappeared due to the large drop-off in sales (Turner sold to Telex in 1979).

5. Starting in 1970, solid-state RF transistors replaced vacuum tubes -- especially in mobile radios. Motorola led this development and those RF transistors were used in amateur radio VHF radios (10W at first, then 25W, and 40W) as well as the lower power (4W) CB radios.
Lightweight and smaller mobile radios were easier to install into autombiles.

6. The Japanese begin take-over of American electronics industry.
Motorola (Quasar) sold their TV production to Matsushita Electric (Panasonic).
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quasar_(brand)

Eastern Asian mfg. produced a large number of CB radios, during the 1970s.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2015, 07:03:13 PM by W9GB » Logged
KM4AH
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« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2015, 08:58:03 PM »

There were probably 100 people in and out of our group and we had jamborees, coffee breaks, almost weekly somewhere in the area. Everybody had base stations as well as mobiles and truck driving or gas prices had little or nothing to do with it.
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K8PRG
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« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2015, 04:20:28 AM »

I owned a customized van from about the mid 70's to mid 80's.....as millions of others did during that time period. And if you had a customized van, it wasn't complete if it didn't have a CB in it ( the 8-track player goes without saying)....that's just the way it was.
Some people I knew were even afraid to use it so never learned how...but they still had to have one in their van.
Just a segment of the population that lent to the "boom".
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W4KYR
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« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2015, 06:00:11 AM »

In addition. There were CB magazines such as CB Times, S9 CB Radio, and CB Illustrated. I think S9 was the most popular one.  As CB radios got smaller a few manufacturers produced an "all in one" integrated AM/FM, 8 Track and CB radio.

In addition to print media and the movies, there were TV shows too, such as 'Movin On' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movin%27_On_%28TV_series%29. And then there were the merchandise tie-ins to the TV show too. "The CB radio boom in the mid-1970s figured into a merchandising tie-in for the show, and Movin' On-brand walkie-talkies, which worked on CB channel 14, were marketed to children."


Some CB enthusiasts had even had "QSL" cards made. Some of them would just have the "handle" but others had their call letters printed out.

Some towns put up road signs which said the Police would monitor Channel 9. (Some of these signs might still exist today). Does anyone still monitor Channel 9 ?  Channel 19 the "Truckers Channel" seems to be the main 'go to' channel.

One can see the evolution of CB rigs, antennas, accessories and even CB books through through the years with vintage Radio Shack Catalogs online. http://www.radioshackcatalogs.com/   
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K8AXW
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« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2015, 09:15:50 AM »

The CB "explosion" happened exactly for the same reasons that cell phones and the Internet have "exploded." 

These days it seems that a cell phone is the normal extension of a hand. Most people these days get the snakes if their ISP goes down for more than 4 hours!

Like cell phones and the Internet, CB radio let people all over talk to each other without the need of picking up a telephone and even allowed round tables of chatter.  Strangers talked to strangers. It was great FUN! 

My wife would never talk on ham radio because she felt most hams were "stiff"......"stuffed shirts"....."too serious" but she had a blast on CB because she felt she knew these people.  And in many cases did.  There would be get togethers over coffee and quite often it was "party time" both on the air and in someone's home.

When the FCC wisely opened CB to 40 channels and the country was flooded with now obsolete 24 channel radios, CB choked itself to death.

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KM4AH
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« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2015, 10:04:30 AM »

Quote
Some CB enthusiasts had even had "QSL" cards made. Some of them would just have the "handle" but others had their call letters printed out.

A friend of mine turned in 50 cards from all states to an ARRL official at one of the big hamfests on a lark. The official said indignantly that these were all 11 meters. He failed to see the humor in it.
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K1ZJH
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« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2015, 11:12:16 AM »

CB, and FM repeaters... when I was working at WHYN-TV back in the late 60s, I received permission to install the first Holyoke area 94 repeater.  It is still in operation this day (although I moved on and run my own repeater on 146.715 these days.)

At one time in the late 70s and through the 80s the repeater would be in use almost 24/7/365.  We had regulars during the day--quite a few salesman on the road... and tons of truckers traveling on the I-90 and I-91 corridor.  Over the past few decades FM repeater operation has waned, in much the same manner as CB activity. Cellphones and the internet stole a lot of activity. Many of the active hams have since retired to the south, or have passed on.

I also vividly remember the packet radio craze... that brought a rebirth of VHF activity, but again the packet radio BBS services were soon made obsolete by internet and email. Sadly, nothing is forever, and times change as technology marches forward.
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N0YXB
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« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2015, 12:24:59 PM »

The popular culture of the time certainly played a big role. I remember all those cringeworthy trucker movies and that massively overplayed Convoy song. I was a Novice at the time but helped several of my high school CB buddies with their antennas.
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W4KYR
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« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2015, 01:07:41 PM »


I also vividly remember the packet radio craze... that brought a rebirth of VHF activity, but again the packet radio BBS services were soon made obsolete by internet and email. Sadly, nothing is forever, and times change as technology marches forward.

Some enthusiasts in Europe are using packet with CB radio.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFu71XeM998
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ONAIR
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« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2015, 03:41:30 PM »

In addition. There were CB magazines such as CB Times, S9 CB Radio, and CB Illustrated. I think S9 was the most popular one.  As CB radios got smaller a few manufacturers produced an "all in one" integrated AM/FM, 8 Track and CB radio.

In addition to print media and the movies, there were TV shows too, such as 'Movin On' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movin%27_On_%28TV_series%29. And then there were the merchandise tie-ins to the TV show too. "The CB radio boom in the mid-1970s figured into a merchandising tie-in for the show, and Movin' On-brand walkie-talkies, which worked on CB channel 14, were marketed to children."


Some CB enthusiasts had even had "QSL" cards made. Some of them would just have the "handle" but others had their call letters printed out.

Some towns put up road signs which said the Police would monitor Channel 9. (Some of these signs might still exist today). Does anyone still monitor Channel 9 ?  Channel 19 the "Truckers Channel" seems to be the main 'go to' channel.

One can see the evolution of CB rigs, antennas, accessories and even CB books through through the years with vintage Radio Shack Catalogs online. http://www.radioshackcatalogs.com/   
   Great links and memories!  You can read many of those old CB radio magazines online at:  http://www.CBRadioMagazine.com
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