Category Archives: CB

The Halcyon Days of CB Radio

This morning, I read a message from a ham radio operator who was just awarded a vanity call sign in honor of his father’s 1970s era CB radio call sign. He was obviously very proud of the role CB played in his “formative” radio years.

Although I often only think of the impact my first transistor radio and first shortwave radio had on my life, CB radio also played a major role.

My father entered the CB radio scene in its early days here in the US. His FCC-issued call sign was KJD1166–it’s laser-etched in my memory from hearing him call it so many times when I was a kid.

Dad had a number of radios, but his favorite was a yellow Robyn T-240D (above). As a kid, I really admired this radio; not only was it stylish, but it also had a digital channel display, amazing audio, and that “Range Expand” toggle switch!

In the 1970s, the CB radio scene in my hometown was dynamic and rather well-organized. Every evening, my dad would turn on the radio and connect with a vast network of radio friends. Not only did they have call signs–and used them–but they also had the best CB handles (like “Tombstone Pete,” “Lady J,” and “Robby Rocket”).

The local CB radio scene also had in-person social meet-ups–a place where you could put a call sign and handle to a face. And let me tell you: you’d see a wide array of folks from all walks of life there. A proper melting pot.

Dad also took me to the CB radio repair shop where he’d buy supplies and occasionally get something fixed. I loved looking at the workbench full of half-disassembled radios. At one point in my childhood, all I really wanted to do was have a workbench like that and dig into radios. Even at a young age, I knew how to use a screwdriver and could void pretty much any warranty.

After the FCC did away with call signs, much of the local CB community fell apart. My dad would still check-in with friends on the air the years following, but much less frequently.

CB: A Ham Radio Gateway Drug

No doubt about it: CB radio eventually lead me down the path to ham radio.

While I never participated in the 70s CB radio scene like my dad, my best friend and I used CBs to communicate with each other across the neighborhood in the 1980s.

My buddy grew up in a multi-generation household and telephone time was restricted to grown-up use (and his teenage sister).

CB radio bridged that communication gap for us. At one point, we both used Realistic 5 Watt 40 channel walkie-talkies–it was incredibly fun and effective.

CB radio, and my dad, taught me about the components of a radio transmitting system–the radio, coaxial feed line, antenna and grounding, etc.–and also concepts like power output, standing-wave ration (SWR), and skip.

I still own my 40 channel CB walkie-talkie (a Realistic TRC-217) and my dad still has his Robyn T-240D, although neither have been on the air for decades. Still, I feel very nostalgic about the 1970s radio scene and should certainly give it credit for paving the path to my ham radio ticket.

Did CB radio play a role in your life? Please comment!


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The story of a 1970s CB Radio QSL card print house

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ulis (K3LU), who shares the following story of a popular CB Radio QSL Card design and print house:

73s and 88s :: The Ballad of Runnin Bare and Lil White Dove

We set a custom screensaver on Our AppleTV. Told it to pull images from Flickr tagged with “British Columbia.” After my wife and kids and I spent a few weeks in Vancouver and in various places on Vancouver Island, it had become one of our favorite places. We missed it.

And so, at night, after a show or movie ended and the AppleTV sat idle for a few minutes, a slideshow would automatically begin. The Parliamentary Buildings in Victoria, the Inner Harbor, the wild, rocky, tidepool-rich shores of Tofino, the murals of Chemainus.

Then, every once in a while, an illustration of some sort. I couldn’t tell what. A one-panel comic? Some kind of advertisement or flyer? It would be gone from the screen before I could really get a good look. Weeks would go by and I wouldn’t see it until, once again, there it was. It looked old, like something from the 60s or 70s. And it had numbers on it, like a code or a message: 73s and 88s.

It was the numbers that got me. Like the park rangers in The Shining calling for Wendy Torrance on the radio: “This is KDK-1 calling KDK-12. KDK-1 calling KDK-12. Are you receiving me?” They seemed to be saying something. But what? I had to find out. So, I took to Google, and began my search.[…]

Click here to continue reading the full article.

FYI: Although the CB Radio landscape is quite different than it was in the 70s, most modern shortwave radio receivers can tune to CB channels. Here’s a quick tutorial from our archives.

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CB radio manufacturer Cedar Electronics (Cobra) struggles with new tariffs

(Source: The Washington Post via Jeff McMahan)

CHICAGO — Cedar Electronics has been selling CB radios to American truckers since the 1960s, helping connect the workers who keep the U.S. economy rolling. But these days Cedar’s business isn’t exactly trucking along.

The Chicago-headquartered company is racing around Asia looking for other countries to host its manufacturing, after the radios Cedar makes in China and brings to the United States were hit with one of the Trump administration’s 25 percent tariffs this summer, making them more expensive to import.

The White House’s decision to extend its tariff campaign to an even broader range of Chinese imports starting Monday is putting similar pressure on more U.S. companies to uproot their Chinese manufacturing, and to consider layoffs, price hikes and investment cuts.

[…]Cedar Electronics’ predecessor company was the first to introduce CB radios to the market decades ago. “We like to joke it was the first social media device,” Karnes said. The radios, made famous by movies like “Smokey and the Bandit,” are still used by many truckers, despite the advent of cellphones.

Steven Fields, a trucker based in Kansas City, Mo., said he uses a CB to warn other drivers about bad weather and accidents. “Being prepared can make a big difference between a miserable trip and a safe trip,” he said.

About 15 years ago, Cedar moved its manufacturing to China to save money on parts and labor, Karnes said.

Cedar imports almost all of its Cobra-brand CBs to North America, where it holds almost 80 percent of the market. The radios are mostly sold at large truck stops, for $99 to $199, depending on the model.

When Cedar learned its CBs would be included on the initial tariff list targeting $50 billion in imports, it applied for an exemption and imported additional inventory by costly airfreight to have stock on hand before the tariffs took effect. That gave the company enough CBs to meet demand through September without having to raise prices, Karnes said.

Click here to read the full story and comment at The Washington Post.

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FCC to legalize CB DXing and boost FRS power

(Source: Southgate ARC)

FCC to modernize Part 95 Regs – GMRS, FRS, CB

The FCC is to legalize 27 MHz CB DXing and boost power of license exempt UHF FM Family Radio Service (equivalent of UK PMR 446)

Under its new Chair Ajit Pai, the FCC is seeking to modernize radio regulations and is scrapping pointless rules like the 250 km (155.3 mile) restriction on Citizen Band Radio contacts.

As yet there is no word on the FCC taking action on the archaic Part 97 amateur radio regulations. Over 40 years ago the FCC considered these regulations were in need of a major overhaul and in 1976 introduced the “Regulation by Bandwidth” Docket 20777. The FCC eventually abandoned the modernization attempt after a a long campaign against it waged by the ARRL.

There was a desire by some radio amateurs in the late 1970’s to restrict the bandwidth of digital data transmissions but any form of “Regulation by Bandwidth” was considered anathema. This resulted in the introduction in 1980 of a Symbol Rate restriction on digital transmissions (avoiding the dreaded words “Bandwidth Restriction”). This has crippled amateur radio data communications ever since, preventing amateurs using modern modes.

It may well be that before too long the FCC will make another attempt at reforming Part 97.

Regarding the Part 95 changes the ARRL says:

In a lengthy Report and Order (R&O) in a proceeding (WT Docket No. 10-119) dating back 7 years, the FCC has announced rule changes affecting the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS), the Family Radio Service (FRS), the Citizens Band Radio Service (CBRS or “CB”), as well as other applications that fall under the FCC’s Part 95 Personal Radio Services (PRS) rules and regulations. Part 95 devices typically are low-power units that communicate over shared spectrum and, with some exceptions, do not require an individual user license from the FCC. As the R&O explains, common examples of PRS devices include “walkie-talkies;” radio-control cars, boats, and planes; hearing assistance devices; CB radios; medical implant devices; and Personal Locator Beacons.

“This draft Report and Order completes a thorough review of the PRS rules in order to modernize them, remove outdated requirements, and reorganize them to make it easier to find information,” the FCC said in a summary attached to the R&O. “As a result of this effort, the rules will become consistent, clear, and concise.”

GMRS and FRS devices are used for personal communication over several miles; compact FRS handhelds, often sold in pairs, are widely available. While GMRS and FRS share spectrum, GMRS provides for greater communications range and requires an FCC license; FRS does not.

“The rules will increase the number of communications channels for both GMRS and FRS, expand digital capabilities to GMRS (currently allowed for FRS), and increase the power/range for certain FRS channels to meet consumer demands for longer range communications (while maintaining higher power capabilities for licensed GMRS),” the FCC explained.

The amended rules eventually will eliminate combination FRS/GMRS radios for the most part, but allow up to 2 W PEP output for FRS transceivers.

Read the full ARRL story at
http://www.arrl.org/news/fcc-personal-radio-service-revisions-will-affect-gmrs-frs-cb-other-part-95-devices

FCC Report and Order
https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-344617A1.pdf

The irony here is that CB DXing (regardless of power) has been in wide practice since the begging of the Citizen’s Band service! I suppose I never realized (at legal power) DXing was illegal. 🙂

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Stuart Sizer: Heathkit designer, dad, and “bon vivant”

Heathkit-Drawings-2Two weeks ago, through a radio preservation group, I met the son of Heathkit product designer of the 1950s-70s, Stu Sizer––”stylist, artist, maker of models, bon vivant.” His son described the discovery of a few vintage Heathkit brochures, photos, and illustrations his father kept in his family’s basement shop, many of which had been scanned at some point.

Stu Sizer––”stylist, artist, maker of models, bon vivant”––was tasked with crafting Heathkit’s user-friendly and attractive exterior designs. For many years Sizer was Heathkit’s only product designer, and was therefore often busy. “He was a great dad,” his son told me, “but he spent a lot of time in the basement proof-building kits.”  He adds wryly, “Let that be a lesson to the hams of this world.”

Sizer’s son kindly shared with us the following scans and photos of his dad’s work, many of which are original drawings; the series concludes with some clippings featuring Sizer.

PC241116 PC241108 PC241107 PC241106 PC241099 Heathkit-Drawings-16 Heathkit-Drawings-15 Heathkit-Drawings-13 Heathkit-Drawings-12 Heathkit-Drawings-11 Heathkit-Drawings-10 Heathkit-Drawings-9 Heathkit-Drawings-8 Heathkit-Drawings-7 Heathkit-Drawings-6 Heathkit-Drawings-5 Heathkit-Drawings-4 Heathkit-Drawings-3 Heathkit-Drawings Heathkit-Advertisement

On Stuart Sizer

Heathkit-Stu Walter SizerHeathkit-Stu Walter Sizer-3Heathkit-Stu Walter Sizer-2

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Drew’s CB Tapes

77realisticcbradioSWLing Post reader, Chris, writes:

“I found this web page  that my be of interest to your blog readers. A guy named Drew Durigan has saved CB radio audio of himself talking to his friends when he was a teenager in the 1970’s. Its mostly kids talking smack about each other with CB radios, kind of like kids do today with text messages and facebook.  The web page is called Radio Geek Heaven.”

http://radiogeekheaven.com/cb-radio/cb-radio-tapes/

Note that Drew has also posted numerous FM/AM air checks on Radio Geek Heaven as well–a lot of good audio to dig through.

Thanks for sharing, Chris!

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