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A Brief History of the History of the Citizen's Band Radio

     During the decades of the 1950s and 1960s, a fad began to sweep across the United States.  Its popularity climaxed in the 1970s, not unlike the hippie movement and the disco music craze.  The trendy Citizenís Band Radios (CBís) could be seen everywhere: on cars and trucks, in houses and gas stations, on farms and ranches, and at local airports.  The need to pass along and receive information, as well as the need to keep in touch with friends and family, made CBís almost essential for truckers, farmers, and other people on the job and along the highways .  Alternate routes and upcoming detours because of delays due to construction or accidents along the interstates were explained by users familiar with the city so that critical time would not be lost for truckers delivering important materials and supplies to companies.  Drivers in unfamiliar territories could be informed of the nearest gas stations and rest stops to refill their near-empty gas tanks or take a break from the constant stress of highway travel.  Teenagers and young adults spent the long, hot days of summer driving around, talking and meeting new people on their CB Radios.  With the rapid increase in popularity of these instruments, CB Radios began to serve both critical and recreational purposes for their users. 

            Al Gross is credited with the founding of the CB Radio.  Born in Toronto, Ontario, in 1918, he moved to the United States as a young child and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio.  He was destined to be the true pioneer of wireless communication from the very beginning.  He became interested in radio at the age of nine and had turned his basement into an amateur radio headquarters by the time he reached twelve years of age. 

At the age of sixteen, when portable wireless communication did not exist and very little was known about radio communications, designs, and circuits above 100 megahertz, he focused his work on frequencies above 100 megahertz.  He eventually discovered the means to cause miniature vacuum tubes to operate in the portion of the radio frequency spectrum above 200 megahertz.  Two of his models that could operate at over 300 megahertz could successfully communicate with one another over a distance of thirty miles. 

Not surprisingly, Gross obtained an electrical engineering degree from what is now Case Western Reserve University.  In early 1938, his efforts led to one of the first ever working walkie-talkies.  Although not considered a major breakthrough at the time, walkie-talkies later played an important role in communication among Allied forces as World War II emerged onto the world stage in the following years.  All of these experiments eventually led to his creation of the first CB Radio in 1943.  In 1950, Gross helped to develop the first pager system at New York Cityís Jewish Hospital.  Other significant innovations that he developed are the beeper and digital stopwatches. 

Although created in 1943, CB Radios did not have a significant impact on people for over a decade.  However, as the country began to expand and communication became increasingly important, there was a need for an inexpensive way to exchange information without using a phone or talking to someone directly.  The equipment became more compact and less expensive, and thus the demand for them grew.  Truckers on the interstate could warn other travelers about speed traps and could help one another when a truck was lost or stranded.  The year 1958 was a watershed date for CB Radios.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduced the first twenty-three channels of the Citizen Band that year.  During the 1970ís, CB Radiosí popularity began to take off.  The oil shortages and labor strikes of the decade forced American truckers to establish a means to communicate with their home base and to the company that employed them.  The newly established 55 miles per hour speed limit made them almost indispensable for travelers constantly on the move.

The FCC was established by way of the Communications Act of 1934, a component of President Franklin D. Rooseveltís New Deal Program.  Its purpose is to oversee all interstate and international radio and telecommunications.  It created three major categories of radio services:  Broadcast Radio, Public Radio, and Safety/Special Radio.  The importance of the work of these three branches was enhanced by the development and installation of radio communication in Allied tanks in World War II throughout the early and mid-1940ís.  The FCC formed the Citizens Radio Service to permit two-way communication over short distances by private individuals or businesses.  After introducing CB Radios in the late 1950ís, roughly ten million CB Radios were in use across the United States by 1976.  This popularity forced the Commission to allocate a greater number of frequencies the very next year in 1977.  The original twenty-three Class D Citizen Band channels increased to a new total of forty because of the ever increasing demand for more airway and space across the channels.  Channel 9 served as an emergency channel for people in need of assistance and aid.  In addition, people that wanted to use them no longer needed to obtain a special license from the Commission to operate any type of CB Radio.