• U.S.

Hobbies: What Citizens Have Wrought

5 minute read

The nation’s busiest party line is a shortwave voice communications setup called the Citizens Radio Service. It was established by the Federal Communications Commission as a short-distance (150 miles maximum) two-way radio system for people who needed it for business or professional reasons: a doctor keeping in touch with his office from his car, taxicab fleets sending directions to cruising cabs, contractors issuing orders to trucks, farm wives calling to their husbands in distant fields. In a rash moment, the FCC also authorized house-to-automobile communi cations on a noncommercial, or “Honey, bring home a loaf of bread” basis.

That was in 1958. and all went well for a while. Then, in the past 18 months, citizens discovered the Citizens Band. What they have wrought since then has given the FCC one huge pain in the antenna.

Today there are more than 350,000 licensed CBers, and the applications for licenses are flowing in at the rate of 10,000 a month. Unlike the skilled ham operators, whose higher-powered sets can span oceans and continents, CBers need take no tests or otherwise exhibit a capacity any more technical than the ability to sign their names. What’s more, CB radio frequencies are so limited (23 channels, from 26,965 megacycles to 27,255 megacycles) that they must be used on a shared basis, like a telephone party line. Result: in any area where CB is the thing, the air waves are choked up day and night with the chatter of garrulous hobbyists.

Highway Patrol. FCC rules prohibit anything but messages of a substantive nature on CB. But that scarcely diminishes the CBers’ compulsion to put out CQ (“Anybody listening?”) calls, to discuss endlessly the merits of their equipment, to exchange recipes or just to chat.

FCC monitors or ordinary listeners-in can tune in on any channel any night of the week and get an earful of such prohibited gab. Many CBers regularly call each other up and conduct two, four, or six-way conversations, continue them for longer than the five-minute FCC time limit, interspersing their transmissions with “the 10 code” made popular by TV’s Highway Patrolman Broderick Crawford, and usually end up by enraging other CBers who want to get on the air with legitimate and sometimes urgent messages to office, home or delivery truck. One such dialogue took place on Long Island last week. A woman was gabbing with a friend:

Marcie: So awright, Sophie, 10-4; I’m in the driveway of the house; I’ll go10-7-now. and go in the house and give you a land line [telephone call], 10-4?

Sophie: 10-4. Marcie . . . Oh-oh. here’s a breaker; come in. breaker, and indentify yourself.

Harry: The breaker is Harry, Sophie. I jes’ tuned ya in. Could this be the Golden Verce of Sout’ Levittown?

Sophie: ‘at’s a big 10-4, Harry. I don’t know about golden, but I feel a little sinusy tonight . . . Wait a minute. Harry, there’s another breaker. Come in, breaker.

Voice: Lissen, you stupid broad, don’t you know it’s against the FCC to hog the channel? Whyn’t you shut up for a while? I’m gonna complain to the FCC about you!

Sophie: Lissen, whoever you are. I know the FCC as well as you. First thing you gotta do is indentify yourself, which you dint do. Secondly, I’ll have you know the FCC can come to my house and examine me any time they so desire. I operate a clean rig. 10-4 . . .

Rule Tightening. A clean rig, says the FCC, has a maximum of five watts input, and has an antenna that reaches no higher than 20 ft. above the structure on which it is mounted. Adequate CB equipment, consisting basically of two transceivers (combination transmitter and receiver) and antenna, is marketed by a long list of reputable manufacturers, including Lafayette, Hammarlund, Halli-crafters, RCA and Heath, averages out at a cost of about $300. A typical, medium-priced transceiver operates on eight crystal-controlled channels providing locked-in transmitting frequencies in much the same manner as pushbuttons work on any radio. In addition, receivers have tuning dials that cover the whole spectrum of the 23 channels, just as an ordinary radio tuning dial covers the commercial broadcasting stations.

But CB has simply got too big for its frequencies. For every license there are as many as a dozen rigs, all being operated by the owners, or their employees, or their families. CB has become a $50 million-a-year business for the manufacturers and spawned magazines like CB Horizons and 59 (ham talk for “loud signal”). Even children yak away on CB for hours. In walkie-talkie form, this is no problem, since these little portable jobs do not carry very far. But come summer, the FCC plans to tighten its rules for owners of the big. multichannel CB rigs. Among proposed changes: cutting the time limit of conversations to three min utes, and restricting communications between different stations to five channels only; the remaining 18 channels would be used exclusively for communications between different units of the same station—from truck to dispatcher, for example, or from car to home. CBers might well take the advice of Mrs. C. J. (“Koot”) Easley. 8W2O52, who wrote in a recent issue of 59:

So use your rig with particular care—Or Fox Charley Charley [FCC] may soon be here.

He’s armed with pink tickets and show cause why—And you better be ready with a quick reply.

So all you CBers out in CB land

Make real good use of your CB Band.

Good luck and best wishes to you, you and you,

It’s 10-7 time from 8W2052.

-‘— 10-7: leaving the air: 10-4: message received.

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