History of the CB Radio

Alfred J. Gross 1918-2000

In 1945 Al Gross powered up the first CB radio, it operated on 27 megahertz and 12 channels. During this time UHF technologies had not advanced enough to be able to sell to the general public at a reasonable rate, they were just too expensive for the average Joe on the street. They were however available to industry drivers such as ambulance, police and the local fire departments. By 1960 the price had reached a comfortable level that they became more popular with small businesses and blue collar workers who began to use the radio as a tool of communication out in the field where a telephone was not handy. In the early seventies the CB moved into the private sector.

By 1973 the United States was in the midst of an oil crisis. As the direct result of the fuel shortage the government reduced the maximum highway speed limit from, what I remember, 75 mph to a mere 55 mph. This was a means to save on fuel consumption, you may not know this but it was proven that at reduced speeds a vehicle consumed less fuel. But who wanted that? Not our friends the over the road truck driver. It took him more time to get his load to the drop site which meant fewer jobs and less pay.

The local and state police knew this. In fact they took advantage of it. Using the change in speed limit to set up “speed traps” to catch the drivers breaking that newly enacted law every stop increased the municipal bank accounts.

That’s where the CB becomes the truck driver’s best friend. With the CB a driver to communicate with other drivers ahead or behind him and give a “shout out” providing information of what lays ahead on the road.

Truckers devised their own language to communicate information. As an example if there was a speed trap on the road a driver might announce there is a “Smokey Bear” at mile marker 42 on highway 90. Or you might hear there is an alligator in the road. Don’t be shocked, seems these alligators appear almost everywhere across this country. An alligator is a strip of rubber from a trucks tire tread. They are fairly harmless unless you run over one at an excessive speed.

OK so now we know it started as a tool of communication where there was no other source of communication available. It then became a truck driver’s best friend during the 70’s oil crisis. It was only natural that it should migrate to the general public.

Here the home user would set up a base station, a permanent radio set up, an reach out to others, either mobile or at home. And of course there are still those who keep a mobile unit in their car for long trips.

What’s next for the low tech CB Radio? Think Zombie Apocalypse.