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back to article UK CB radio crowd celebrates three decades of legality

Breakers around the UK will have their ears on come 2 November, holding out for a copy to mark 30 years since Citizen's Band turned legit in the UK. It was 2 November 1981 when the inventor of CB, Al Gross, symbolically called 10-4 for a copy from Trafalgar Square without risking arrest. But he did so using an encoding system, …

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Coat

Got your ears on?

1-9 for a copy, surely?

In my student days I used my (not very) portable CB to get lifts up & down the UK.

Mines is the one with the Harvard walkie talkie and lantern batteries in the pocket.

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Megaphone

Oh they were the days.

Breaker Breaker 19 19 for a Friday Morning modulation. This is Muscle Mouth, in my 18 wheeler bucket, hauling HP Servers, down to the old smoky city. Got my ears on and the hammer down on the east bowed slab. Any breaker give me a 10 13, 10 18. Oh Sh!t I forgot to switch on the rig.

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Ru
Facepalm

What is the point?

Gosh, I sure am glad you put that exclamation mark in "sh!t" otherwise you might have displayed a rude word to the entire internet. As it is, there's no danger in anyone mistaking that mysterious combination of symbols for anything impolite.

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Rubber duck

You ain't half tagged some weird shit with "rubber duck", El Reg...

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Happy

Does this author have a clue?

"an encoding system"

ITYM different modulation , in this case FM. How hard would that be to look up?

"The idea was to spur a British industry developing single-sideband (SSB) radios"

Err, SSB and FM are mutually incompatible so thats rather unlikely. Only hams use SSB and that

was legal already.

The author forgot that the UK government also mandated different frequencies to the US system as well as different modulation. However it wasn't all bloody mindedness - AM , especially at the illegal power some CB'ers were running caused SERIOUS interference to old electronics especially TVs and tape recorders. If you had some idiot running 100W AM next door to you then you could forget about watching TV while he was doing it and you'd hear his voice on a tape if you recorded anything. FM still causes issues but not nearly so bad.

Anyway , people take the piss out of CB but it was just the facebook of it day with the same mix of personality types - you got the obsessives who spent their lives on air and thought they owned "their" channel, you got the old grannies just chatting, the young kids/muppets who just wanted to swear at everyone but the novelty of that wore off after a few days , the DXers who just wanted to see how far their signal would go and people who just wanted to talk to their mates without lining BTs pockets for a phone call.

Happy days. Pretty much dead in London when I was last on about 3 years ago though. Maybe a dozen breakers at most scattered over 80 channels (40 UK + 40 CEPT).

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Only hams used SSB ?

Well, I must have dreamed spending full days seeking DX on my President Grant 120-channel 25-watt AM-FM-SSB set (of course always using SSB because that's the modulation that works best by far for DX) in the 80s...

Of course real DXers were using SSB even in the CB 11-meter band.

Yes, that was quite illegal by then in France as well. Just part of the fun I guess :-)

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Happy

It was fun back then...

I once had a short DX with a guy in Brazil on illegal AM/SSB (WKS 1001 rig), using a biscuit tin as a ground plane.

Couldn't even get to France (<25 miles) with the shitty FM UK rigs.

10-10 'til we do it again.

^_^

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Goodness gracious me! Thirty years? I'm starting to feel really old now...

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Happy

Uh, Breaker 1-9 this here's the Rubber Duck..

You got a copy on me Love Machine?

Ahh 10-4 Pig Pen. Golly Golly it's clear all the way to taco town.

Yea, we definately got us a front door, good buddy.

Mercy, sakes alive, it looks like we got us a convoy.

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Unhappy

hmmm

Recent experience suggests that it's become the idiot magnet of choice. Sadly, ham foundation freqs are going the same way.

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Kinda dead in West Wales too.. a few truckers.. but now and then I still pop the mag mount up on the car to see whats about - usually linear lunged Italians.... Still see a few twigs around, mostly on 4x4's, not even sure they are for 27 megs tho...

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Happy

lots of 4x4 clubs use cb.

We had a local exercise couple of weeks ago - local government emergency guys; cops; local 4x4 club and RAYNET (Radio Amateur Emergency Network) - went well - cb used for cab to cab chat by the 4x4 drivers; RAYNET used for county wide co-ordiantion and control. Good excuse to see some one else's hobby and although it took all Sunday - a good exercise. CB and Hams all working well together - which was not always true.

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Anonymous Coward

lol RAYNET

What a bunch

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Great days.

I always had a rubbish midland set, badly swr'd in and only able to get a few miles at best, though i did once get a seat cover from 25 miles away, and successfully eyeballed her home 20. Ahem

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Happy

@SuperTim

Midland rigs weren't rubbish. The key, as you mentioned in your post, was your SWR... (And of course, your location and antenna)... And propagation pattern...

My SWR was never worse than 1.2, and I had local access to hills...

Happy days... Met some nice people because of CB.

Youth. I remember it...

Lives are made of memories.

^_^

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I had one in my early teens and would spend the night on it picking pieces off the 80's checked wallpaper in my room.

Even went of a date with a girl from croydon. I think i took her on a tour of my paper round.

good times

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Flame

What nobody seems to remember...

"... especially at the illegal power some CB'ers were running caused SERIOUS interference to old electronics especially TVs and tape recorders. If you had some idiot running 100W AM next door to you then you could forget about watching TV while he was doing it..."

...is that there were ALREADY legal users on the 27Mhz band, who paid a licence fee to use it, and expected to be protected from interference.

These were the model aircraft flyers, whose frequency it was. Never mind about watching TV and 100W- if somebody put 10W out when you had a 10lb model aircraft up with a 1/2 hp motor at the front spinning the prop at 30krpm, then you could forget about the large cost of investment and time you had put into your hobby, and, if you were unlucky, some spectator could forget about their eyesight....

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Silver badge

Actually, the radio control bands were the Alpha channels, gaps in the US 40 channel range.

Some rigs could get to them, but it wasn't a standard feature.

Although you were still at risk if the rig was close, badly aligned (over modulating), or was running some boots with poor filtering bleeding over into your allotted gap.

Having said all that, IIRC, wasn't 27Mhz usually for ground based RC vehicles with RC aircraft usually found on higher frequencies?

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Silver badge
FAIL

What you seem to have forgotten...

Was that all generally available (pre 1981 27MHz UK FM) imported AM (because they ALL were), rigs were max 4 watts output.

You had to "have boots on" to have more power than that...

And anybody who had any sense, and more than zero understanding of RF, wouldn't put 100 watts up an un-tuned twig...

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Anonymous Coward

What you seem to have forgotten...

"...anybody who had any sense, and more than zero understanding of RF, wouldn't put 100 watts up an un-tuned twig..."

You may have forgotten that many illegal CB users were as thick as shit and many of them probably thought that SWR stood for "South Western Radio". I knew of a few of these individuals who had imported burners from the US and installed them in their cars.

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@ Dodgy Geezer

Pretty sure you deserved all you got for flying on 27 MHz, 27 MHz is for ground use, 35 MHz for air in the UK. That's the case nowadays, can't recall if it was 30 years ago since I wasn't flying until the early 90s.

http://www.ukrcc.org/

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FAIL

well there you go

back in the day ALL model radio control was licenced in the 11 metre band ONLY.

I do remember watching a pose of RC guys hunt down an idiot cber after his transmissions had put a 2 metre long RC Wellington bomber into the ground.; like everyone else watching we all hoped they caught him.

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Bronze badge

Are you sure you meant "pose" not "posse"?

Oh, ok, then...

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Mushroom

@35 MHz

Before CB it was only the 27MHz band (in particular, the bottom half of 27.X MHz) that was used for all model control - and other non-voice usage. When legal CB started (using the upper 27.X MHz's), the new 35MHz model aircraft band was opened up so that they could get away from accidental interference from the legal - and illegal - CB's.

RC models of surface vehicles (including boats) are still confined to the 27MHz where interference is not so critical. But there can be other unexpected hazards. The archetypcal "friend of a friend" had charged up his Ni-Cd batteries directly from a car battery charger (DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME). They seemed to work when he put them in his model boat. But when the boat was out in the deepest part of the lake, the batteries blew up, blew a hole in the hull of the boat and it sank.

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Silver badge

Slaping your NiCd batteries across a car battery can be usefull...

...if you have one thats too discharged to work on a normal battery charger. Only for a moment or two to take it off the bottom of its capacity. Have heard of some using car batteries to charge up models and not make a delayed firework.

But as you say, don't try this at home unless you know what you are doing. Car batteries have enough juice to weld bits of steel together and both types of battery make a nasty bang (car one having the added effect of hot acid spray)

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Anonymous Coward

Packet Pirates

27.235 (FM) still has some activity when the conditions are good, I used to be on that frequency with packet radio connecting all over Europe back in the early 90s.

It was the poor kid's Internet of the day (for me anyway), there were many BBSes and nodes around but rarely any in the UK. I think I was one of the very few other than Brian in Telford and Clive in Cannock, and some chap down in Lowestoft. :) It was great plugging a simple Baycom modem from Maplin and having late night chat sessions without having to use voice (parents had to sleep!)

Fond memories.

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Anonymous Coward

Packet

I still operate Packet on CB. Channel 24 EU. It's legal too!

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SImpler times

Used one for many years, monitored channel 9 for a while and actually managed to help a few people, called doctors, police, relayed messages between walking parties and scouts on hills of Exmoor. All seems daft now mobile phones are everywhere but was good natured fun back then. If it was invented now you'd have adverts every fifteen minutes unless you bought a subscription and those adverts would be focused on the words you just said.

When the skip was in it was like a audio spotlight on the world, different bits of the globe floating in like some weirdly orchestrated choir of strangers. The sun spots have been quite active of late and the conditions have favoured that frequency again (just testing SDR these days).

I made more real friends on CB than I have ever made via the internet, the scope is there but not the heart.

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For some it was an introduction to amateur radio

I took the radio amateur exam many years ago, very useful it was too. On my course were many other CBers who wanted to take their radio interest further.

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Go

CB Radio always makes me think of a Mike Harding sketch:

Mike Harding did a CB love song way back when. The song is at the start of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2JlTPTybfs&feature=related, but the explanation is from around 5 minutes into http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGxoV4djsaI

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Bronze badge

Mike Harding? Funny you should mention it but he's doing a comeback tour.

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Anonymous Coward

Irony

There is an irony that 30 years ago, CB users were regarded as the most hardcore of nerds and weirdos you wouldn't want your children to have contact with, whilst today everyone's glued to Facebook and Twitter via their overpriced and overblown smartphone...

Normal folk have all become nerds. What have the nerds become? Refuseniks, maybe? I used to be mad into PDAs in the 90s but today wouldn't even touch any device remotely 'smart'.

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Megaphone

Found one on youtube...

...here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72lVCKUaN0c

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JB
Happy

Well remember uing CB a great deal in the late 80s. Met a good many friends on it, and got me into radio, building aerials, constructing microphones, etc. Bought a cheap CB out of the paper in about 2001 and had another go, waste of time: just foul-mouthed kids swamping the channels, chatting on channel 19, etc. A real shame, it was nice to have an alternative means of communication.

There should be a nostalgia icon!

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Anonymous Coward

'Captain Slog' here

Formerly of Robin Hood city

I've still got my rig here down under :-) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwTsdUprEWY

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Anonymous Coward

I hope the UK is better than the US

I hope the UK is better than the US - there's a reason we call it "children's band" or "chicken band" over here: it's one big heterodyne squeal, full of idiots saying "shut the #uck up or I'll kick yo ass" and other blitherings. Occasionally you do get some good information about the road ahead, but to put up with that crap makes me long for the OFs on 20M talking about their prostates....

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Trollface

"one big heterodyne squeal, full of idiots saying "shut the #uck up or I'll kick yo ass" and other blitherings."

CBchan

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Trollface

CB? What's that?

Between cellphones and FRS/GPMS radios CB is just about dead and buried in the US.

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Bronze badge

CB more or less died in the UK the day it became legal. But then the vast majority of CB users in the UK at the time were sad dweebs who practiced their hobby from their bedrooms. It never really got the sort of widespread practical use that it did in the US. I recall being in the US as a lad back about that time and we drove some 2,000 miles in his pickup and in all that time he used his CB once. IIRC it was to alert a trucker to the fact he was trailling an air hose. IOW something practical.

Over here in the UK most of the usage of CB at the time seemed to be a forum for people to talk about CB. Imagine an internet forum where sad lads sit in their bedrooms and just discuss the PC hardware they are using to communicate with each other.

As was mentioned in the article a whole load of people deserted the hobby once it became legal. American films like Smokey and the Bandit really brought CB to the attention of british kids and caused an upsurge in it's popularity which was in turn the catalyst for it to be legalized. So what you had were a lot of kids who wanted to pretend to be some sort of truck driving modern day Robin Hood and were also enamoured of the idea of doing something illegal. So not only did legalizing CB somewhat take the shine of the hobby, but also it came at a time when films like that at had their day.

Going on for twenty years ago some friends an I were going on a long road holiday in some old cars and wanted a way to stay in touch. Mobile phones were pretty rare and expensive back then and coverage was dire anyhow so we decided to pop to Maplins and buy a cheap CB each. In a couple of weeks hooning our Minis all over the mainland UK we hardly heard a peep out of our CBs appart from our car to car converstions. So CB seemed to be pretty much dead in the UK scarcely ten years after it had been legalized.

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"Going on for twenty years ago some friends an I were going on a long road holiday in some old cars and wanted a way to stay in touch."

There are quite a few of us (still in Minis) who still do the same thing. Makes it handy for comms between club members during those long trips to shows, or getting directions from the lead car when travelling from LE to JOG.

And the peeps are even fewer and further apart.

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FAIL

really

oh is that so?

try listening to 27.385 lsb or 26.025 27.185 ect i know its Halloween but I am sure those voices are from the living!

coast to coast US stations coming into the UK

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Unhappy

Turn CB on. Hear next door's PLT.

As a teenager I was into CB heavily in the 90s before moving on to get my full amateur licence. At that point I realised I really liked Morse having been forced to learn it, and spent so many hours working 20m and 40m bands on the key. Obviously didn't really have a girlfriend back then! But the thing is that there was always something about CB that made me want to go back to it. Working SSB on 11m was somehow more fun because it's illegal. Good old 70s / 80s rigs - President Grant, WKS, etc. were cool to use, and it was fun to make up little EPROM boards (or even just use a bunch of CMOS binary adder ICs) for those rigs whose PLL ICs were modification-friendly.

About a year ago I decided to try getting back into it (grabbing an original boxed President Madison AM/FM/SSB homebase on eBay £40 buy-it-now just minutes after it was listed) and found that 11m SSB activity is surprisingly healthy. Not only is there a lot of skip propagation at the moment enabling contacts into Europe very easily on the right day, but I also find that there are quite a few local nets on both SSB and legal FM bands.

Tried to explain its appeal to my wife, but just got funny looks. I suppose I'll stick to my computers and radios, and she'll stick to horseriding.

Like someone else commented, I got into packet radio too (though via the amateur bands). That was incredible fun, and it meant you could access bulletin boards and exchange mails electronically with people all over the world quite some years before much of the general population even knew what the Internet was.

Yes, people took the piss back in the day, but as others have said, CB or amateur radio was the closest we had as an equivalent to 'social networking'. And in so many ways, it doesn't compare at all.

What is particularly sad is that things have moved on to the point where it's often difficult to use CB or HF amateur radio bands in many residential areas now due to damned PLT. I had Ofcom get one removed from nearby (it was one that BT had installed with BT Vision) so I can use the radio again for a while if I want to; but the problem is rife, and I know so many people have simply been forced to give up their radio hobby because of it. Things have moved on to the point where a so-called "technology" is allowed to render the entire HF radio spectrum useless in many areas just for the sake of having the telly and router at opposite ends of the room without an Ethernet cable between. A few years ago, EMC laws would have protected the radio users and upheld the very principles that EMC laws are there for; these days, it's all about corporations and money and loopholes.

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Bronze badge

"Tried to explain its appeal to my wife, but just got funny looks. I suppose I'll stick to my computers and radios, and she'll stick to horseriding."

Your wife is doing something real and you're, well, not.

BTW before you point out that neither am I, I just got back from a day out on the SUP. Would have been surfing, but there was no swell to speak of. Having said that riding in on six inches of mush beats sitting in a room on a radio.

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Regulator is ignoring the law!

The sad fact is, many national regulators are complicit in breaking the law by ignoring the EMC Directive (2004/108/CE) and EN55022 whilst using the excuse that it does not need to apply. They are holding up the recommendation 2005/292/EC, which suggests member states should remove the barriers for Broadband over Powerline deployments. It also states that said deployments should still meet the EMC Directive and be shut-down if they cannot. It does not apply to in-house PLT devices; yet the politicians and weasels at BIS (and Ofcom) say and believe otherwise. They state that CENELEC is working on a "standard" to fix all of the problems, whilst obfuscating the difference between an interoperability standard (such as IEEE 802.11) and a EMC testing standard.

The corruption and lack of accountability is mind-boggling! Unfortunately, as the PLT debacle predominantly affects HF radio, the general public do not care!

You can read more about the whole sorry affair at http://www.ban-plt.co.uk/

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Boffin

Been on channel since 1987.

I met some nice people on CB (as well as some a-holes) and I am still friends with some of them. It was a fantastic way for lots of people to communicate - and remember, this was before the days of the mobile phone. You can still have a load of people on one channel chatting to everyone without paying for expensive conference calling; and it used to be ideal when mobile - before alligator-jawed home-base users decided to use channel 19 as their "mother's meeting" channel!

A group of us also marshalled the local town carnival one year. Our point-to-point one-to-many CBs kept working when the local police's UHF radios hit dead spots (a bit like TETRA); so they started relaying messages via us as we stationed mobile units with police officers.

And don't forget "Fox Hunting". Hide and seek in cars (and vans) using the signal to "DF" people in their hiding places. Hours of fun and litres of petrol; with the added bonus that lots of cars and eyes, all in communication, were looking around town for several hours on a Friday/Saturday night!

The problem with AM in the early days was not the power level being used, it was the cheap and nasty electronics used in TVs, etc., which had no RF immunity. Any RF field, regardless of modulation could affect the cheaply built TVs. That was one of the reasons for the EMC directive - to provide protection from and to radio services - though sadly PLT and Plasma TV manufacturers are ignoring it!

RC modellers are not stuck at 27/35 MHz. There are now cognitive radios operating in the 2.45GHz band which offer far greater control and no need to swap crystals!

Sadly, the future of HF is quite bleak. CB, and to a certain extent Amateur Radio, is being wiped off the planet through the deliberate abuse of the HF radio spectrum by organisations and national regulators only interested in making a quick buck. If you are wondering why everyone is being forced to break the law by running powerful linears, go ask Ofcom why they are not enforcing the law against non-EMC compliant PLT filth and faulty plasma TVs?!

10-10 from The Electron

73 de M6PLT

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Bronze badge

"but making it legal made CB less cool"

Indeed I remember most of the people I knew who were into CB more or less deserted the hobby when it was announced that it was to be legalized. They didn't wait until the day it was actually legal to chuck their rigs in the cupboard under the stairs.

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Bronze badge

The idea was to spur a British industry

Not as far as I recall it wasn't. The problem that I recall at the time was that the US rigs used frequencies that were already in use in the UK and were therefore causign interference.

The decision to use FM was AFAIR down to the fact that FM was the latest tech back then and was more or less as cheap to produce as AM kit. Of course the US kit was developed at a different time.

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Ahh good ol'e chicken band. Can't say I had a lot to do with it.

Much of the CB activity here has moved up to 477MHz. Basically, it's a zoo up there. Its one and only lifeline I guess is the infrastructure independence, which is good if you go rural and find mobile phone coverage isn't what is required (or promised). Apart from that, cellular services outperform CB for most use cases.

27MHz I hear is a bit more civil, and I do now have a 27MHz set here… an old Uniden AX-144 (yes, a sideband rig), but it'll need some TLC before it can go on air. Guess I'll find some time for that some day.

Right now, I'm having too much fun with 100W PEP (or 30W continuous) and the 8 radio bands I have equipment for (80m, 40m, 20m, 15m, 10m, 6m, 2m and 70cm).

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Alien

Halcyon Days

Hi,

Fond memories of early cb to keep in touch, after bringing a rig back from the states. In the late 70's there were hundreds of us in west london, some with quite big burners, though you could talk to the states on ssb with only 15 w pep, sometimes on am, on a good day. Handle here was DT522, TS120 rig + Yorkshire Red Rooster amplifier, for those that might remember such kit. Yes, it was illegal,. but the number of users eventually changed the law. Social disobedience from the ground up :-).

Oh yes, cb was running in many countries of the world, long before Mr Goss & Co. Invented it ?. Shum mishtake, shirley...

Chris

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Anonymous Coward

During the illegal CB period, a defence contractor in Bracknell was developing a frequency hopping jammer for the military. Some of the chaps involved in the commissioning of these units would program all the illegal CB channels into a jammer and then press "Go". The jammer would would scan all the channels and jam only those where someone had started to speak. After lunch, they would stop the jammer and then listen to all the chatter about the unexplained interference....

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