C.B. Radio At The Dawn Of The Mobile Communications Age

Yesterday I was driving on the interstate.  I passed a series of 18-wheeler trucks and thought:  “Convoy!”

Convoy, of course, was the huge hit song that helped to spur a mini-boom of citizens’ band (“C.B.”) radio purchases and use in the 1970s.  Convoy told the story of the Rubber Duck, Big Ben, and other truckers as they rocketed across the country, using their C.B. radios to dodge Smokey the Bear and other law enforcement personnel.

For a brief instant in the ’70s, people thought C.B. radio was cool and went out to buy C.B. sets.  Of course, the idea of suburbanites in their sedans intruding on the world of the interstate trucker was pretty pathetic, and the boom died almost as soon as it started.  Does anyone — truckers included — use C.B. radio anymore?

I think there may have been something beyond the brief flirtation with something new, something deeper at work in the brief popularity of C.B. radio.  I think people thought it was cool to talk while you were driving, and to communicate with people all around you without being tied to a land-line phone.  C.B. radio had its limitations, but it helped to pave the way for cell phones, smart phones, texting, and all of the other instant, portable communications that dominate modern American society.

10-4, Rubber Duck!

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