CB has come a long way to get to the system we have here today...
CB radio was first started in the U.S.A. in 1958. In the early 1970’s, truck drivers going on strike,fuel shortages, and the introduction of a 55 mph speed limit made CB indispensable to those on the road. Drivers used CB to locate fuel, and get advance warning of speed traps - hence the adoption of codes and slang, to avoid the ears of the highway patrol, often also fitted with CB.
In 1976, the original 23 channels were increased to 40, due to it’s popularity, and in that year 10 million CB sets were sold in the states !
CB sets found their way into the UK and a growing number of people risked heavy fines and the confiscation of equipment to establish illegal “pirate” UK CB. As numbers increased, clubs started up and began to campaign for the legalisation of UK CB. The pressure from these user groups eventually paid off and CB radio was legalised in this country in November 1981.
We were given two sets of channels, both using the FM mode (as opposed to the American AM service).
These bands were one set of 40 channels at 27MHz, and another 20 channels further up the frequencies, into the UHF band at 934MHz. The 934 service was never as popular as 27MHz, as the equipment was expensive and complicated to set up correctly. This band has since been withdrawn, and it is now illegal to use 934MHz CB equipment, as the frequencies are now used for mobile phones.
In it’s first few years, CB was very popular, in fact most “older” radios still being used today date from the early 80’s, when huge numbers were imported, and every high street had a CB shop.
Although the number of users has fallen considerably since then, some areas are still very busy, while others have only a handful of users.
In 1986, another set of 27MHz channels were made legal, to bring us into line with the CB service in the rest of Europe. This band of 40 channels, (known as the EU or CEPT band), is still quieter than the UK band, so longer distances are achievable, sometimes hundreds even thousands of miles in freak weather conditions.
Although the two bands were both legal to use, you had to have a separate CB radio for each band. This changed when, in 1997 the type approval for 80 channel rigs was issued. It took the manufacturers about 9 months to produce units that passed these (very stringent) specifications, and the Maycom EM-27 was the first of these new high-tech sets.
The introduction of 80 channel CB rigs sparked a renewed interest in CB, and more CB's can to the market place.
In 2000 the legislation changed again, allowing "multi standard" cb's - the idea of these is that they have all the different european countries legal cb channels programmed in and you simply tell it what country you're operating it in and it gives you access to all the channels that are legal for that country.
This has lead to a huge increase in the numbers of cb's available as the manufacturers could bring out sets that they could sell in th whole of europe, instead of making different versions for each country... at the time of writing (August 2010) there are now around 30 different cb's available!
Nowadays, CB has as many different uses as there are users...
Motorway drivers getting traffic reports & directions - Off-roaders out greenlaning - farm workers co-ordinating work or keeping in touch with each other - children sharing their homework - families and friends on motoring holidays and days out - community groups organising cycle races & events, and those who just use it to make friends... people from all walks of life still use and value CB radio.
In late 2006 the UK cb license was abolished, and whilst the majority of users didn't seem to bother with getting one anyway, it's helped to attract new users.