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You’ve probably heard of CB radios even if you know nothing about them. You may just know that many truck drivers use them to communicate with each other or you may know about it from the old Convoy song. “Breaker 1-9, this here’s the Rubber Duck”. If that’s all you know about CBs, you may be asking, what is a CB radio? No worries. I can tell you what a CB radio is. You can also read about the best CB radios.
CB stands for Citizen’s Band. CB radio is used around the world for short-distance person-to-person communication between individuals. This is done by using two-way radios which operate on 40 CB channels near 27 MHz radio frequency in the shortwave band. In most countries around the world, you don’t need a radio license to operate a CB. and it can be used for business or personal communications needs.
The radio is typically in receive mode to play transmissions of other radios on the channel. If you want to talk, all you have to do is press the microphone button, which turns on the transmitter. Anyone sharing the same channel has to take turns talking since only one can transmit at a time.
Transmitter power has a range of about 3 to 20 miles and is limited to 4 watts in the US and the EU. To tune your CB radio, SWR meters are used to help adjust your base radio antenna or mobile antenna. It is also important to note that channel 9 is for emergencies only.
In 1948, the first CB radios used the 460–470 MHz UHF band, but class B radios were what made the difference, as they had a smaller frequency range and were technologically simpler. So the Citizens Radio Corporation was created in the 1940s to manufacture Class B units for the public. They didn’t really start to see massive use until the 1960s when it gained popularity with small businesses like plumbers, electricians, and truck drivers. Boats have marine radios that are used to communicate with the coast guard. At the end of the 60s, the weight, size, and cost of CB radios all shrank thanks to advances in solid-state electronics.
Base stations are Citizens Band radios that are in a building, while you can also get mobile CB radio units or handheld radios like walkie talkies and systems for your car.
The 1970s saw a boost in SSB CB radio use and became part of pop culture, featured in many songs and movies. It all started with the 1973 oil crisis which led to fuel shortages, a new speed limit, and rationing. Drivers used CB radios to locate service stations that had enough gas as well as to help each other avoid speed traps. It was also instrumental in organizing blockades and convoys in the 1974 strike protesting that new speed limit. Everyone was using citizens band radios.
These days not many people are using radio communications technology compared to the 1970s. Even digital scanners are not as popular. Although the handheld CB radio is used more than others. We have the internet and smartphones after all. But in its heyday, using amateur radios was the way that CB operators communicated while on the road. Now that you have the answer to “What is a CB radio?” are you interested in using one?