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Airplanes and Rockets:
May 1967 Electronics World[Table of Contents] People old and young enjoy waxing nostalgic about and learning some of the history of early electronics. Electronics World was published from May 1959 through December 1971. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged. See all Electronics World articles.
Citizen Band (CB) radios were all the rage during my high school years (1973-76). Previously the domain of over-the-road haulers, by then everybody who was anybody had a 23-channel CB in his/her car or pickup truck. My 1969 Camaro SS, of course, sported one - probably the cheapest model available. Those were the days of C.W. McCall's "Convoy" and Cledus Maggard's "The White Knight" lyrics. Everybody knew the words to it. Smokey and the Bandit fed the craze. After all, there were no cellphones. Rather than learning text messaging shortcuts like OMG, *$ (the company didn't even exist then), B4N, and IMHO, we learned to use clever words and phrases like "10-4," "bear in the air," and "what's your 20?" It's been a long time since I've seen a CB in any car, but you can still buy them. Truckers reportedly are still heavy users of CBs even though they all also have cellphones, both for safety reasons and to help avoid those Smokeys taking pictures.
In a move which could effect sweeping long-range changes on 27 MHz, the FCC has announced its proposal to require "type acceptance" of all class-D CB equipment at point of manufacture.
Although the Commission has stated that this action "does not impose any new or significantly tighter standards other than a requirement for a modulation limiter," close inspection reveals that in reality the move may well be the first step towards a major overhaul of the service, aimed at ridding it of the hobbyist element.
The type-accepted CB set would not be much different from those now being used, although a few interesting limitations will be imposed. For one, the ICAS rating on the final tube will not be allowed to exceed 10 watts. Further, all crystals must be supplied by the manufacturer. If r.f. output is more than 2.4 watts, a "device which automatically prevents modulation in excess of that specified" must be included in the circuit. Finally, panel connectors and controls would be restricted to the following: a.c. plug, mike connector, r.f. output connector, "on-off-volume" control, sideband selector (if SSB set), p.a. switch, channel selector, and transmit-receive switch. What makes these changes significant, however, are not the design limitations so much as the new restrictions on the set owner.
With a type-accepted CB transceiver, the operator will not in any way be permitted to "tube" the output for best matching to the transmission line nor can he substitute crystals. If channel-switching is desired, he will have to either buy a multi-channel set or employ the services of a 1st or 2nd Class Commercial ticket holder. Should component replacement be required, he can use only those parts (including tubes and crystals) listed in the instruction manual by the manufacturer.
Far more important, however, are the regulations concerning even minor circuit changes. Type-accepted CB sets, according to the FCC, "shall be in no way modified by the user." Obviously, this will apply to the countless books and magazines presenting do-it-yourself material for souping up receivers, add-on noise limiters, etc.
Dealing a crushing blow to the CB accessory business is another stipulation that strictly prohibits "external connection or addition of any accessory not originally included" with the transceiver. Clearly, this would render illegal all outboard "S" meters, s.w.r. bridges, modulation boosters, etc.
Behind this move is the feeling in many circles that the CB industry may be contributing to the increasing number of rule violations by including such questionable equipment features as "25-watt construction," "30-channel operation," and occasionally slip-shod spurious radiation suppression techniques. By regulating the manufacturing community, the Commission hopes to somewhat improve the caliber of the signal (if not the operator) to be found on 27 MHz.
It is interesting to note that just prior to this type-acceptance disclosure word was out that the FCC was planning to remove unlicensed 100-milliwatt walkie-talkies from 27 MHz and place them on a newly created 49.9-50.0 MHz band. According to the story, millions of dollars worth of transceivers (largely Japanese) would have to be scrapped in favor of redesigned walkie-talkies which would meet tight Commission type-acceptance requirements. The idea, apparently, was to rid the CB band of millions of these "toys" - many of which are poorly designed from a technical standpoint - and substitute a new breed of crystal-controlled transceiver (running no more than 60 mW measured "at the battery") on 49 MHz.
Shortly after The New York Times stated, in an item "FCC Weighs Ban on Walkie-Talkies" (Feb. 3, 1967), that it had confirmed this report, the FCC all but denied it had ever proposed such a drastic measure. More recently, Commission spokesmen have stated that the 49-MHz plan is just "one of many concepts under consideration" by the agency and that no matter what emerges, "it will take some time yet."
In September of last year Chairman Rosel H. Hyde warned the CB industry that unless something were done to curb the rising tide of rule violations on 27 MHz, the FCC might have to consider "the cessation of issuance of any new Citizens Radio licenses pending a reexamination of the justification for and proper operation of the Service."
Whether the type-acceptance proposal and whatever walkie-talkie solution eventually emerges will materially help upgrade the 27-MHz band, remains to be seen. Although industry cooperation is now at hand, the question is will individual CB-ers respond? Many users seem to think in terms of enforcement and this is one area in which the Commission is hamstrung.
Whether or not Hyde's threat to CB materializes, it is now apparent that the FCC clearly intends to grasp control of the mess on 11 meters.