Much is made of internet chat; people claim it’s such a revolution in
communication. I see it as nothing more than an extension of a need
for people to chit-chat. People once communicated with the telegraph,
a mailed letter or even smoke signals, no matter what the medium-they
like to talk. There is one type of electronically-delivered blather
that is very similar to internet chat in its use of code, anonymity
of user and purpose; both were the “wild west” of communication for
The Citizens Band radio was the seventies thing to do, at home or in
the car. People had names or “handles” just as people now use on the
internet. They also spoke using “10 codes” which is similar to the
abbreviated phrases employed during internet chat. It was used in
businesses and for recreation, just like the internet is used today.
That is where it ends for me. I thought CB radios where so much
cooler than internet chat. Chatting on the internet is flat and lacks
the inflection that the spoken word delivers and all of its
accompanying subtleties. You can also hear background noise on a CB
which gives you context based on the sender’s location. Plus the
radio sets just looked neat.
An entire culture grew around the use of CB radios. Truckers used
it-a mixed bag of the lonely, the icky and the tired whiled away the
hours in search of a little talk and maybe news about where smokey
had his “speed trap” set.
My brother, Dave, would come home most week-ends from his job in
Fordville, North Dakota. He would call on his CB radio and I would
try to receive his communications on my little walkie-talkie. I
multiplied my reception distance by clamping the alligator clip to
our television antenna to my little walkie. I felt like I was
reaching out to the world. Dave would mark the furthest distance of
reception for my entertainment and amazement.
If you spoke on a CB radio in the seventies, you used your CB voice.
It seemed to me that most people either spoke with a slight southern
drawl or dropped their voice at least an octave. I think it was
similar to internet chat in that the radio allowed you to become
CW McCall extolled the Citizen’s Band culture in song. CW McCall was
a character created by Bill Fries who was an advertising executive at
Bozell and Jacobs in Omaha, Nebraska. The character was created to
sell “Old Home Bread” for the Metz Baking Company. Anyway, CW McCall
recorded the song “Convoy” which eventually made rose to number one
on the Billboard charts. “Convoy” told the story of renegade truckers
hell-bent to not pay any tolls. The song featured many vignettes of
CB radio traffic between the fictional truck drivers. That song
cataloged much of the vocabulary commonly used on Citizens Band
during that time and I still find myself thinking about the clever
phrases interspersed throughout this ultimate trucker’s song.
“Convoy” was eventually made into a movie of the same name.
I know a few still use CB radios, millions more use internet chat.
Either way, both modes of communication range from making
conversation to actual business. For me, I don’t chat much on my
computer and would rather just remember some good times I spent
waiting for my brother to arrive in range somewhere between channels
one and forty.
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