Blast from the past: CB Radio

Long before Facebook and Whatsapp there was CB radio. HELEN MCGURK gets a ‘handle’ on it

By Helen McGurk
Friday, 8th April 2022, 12:32 pm
Chatting on CB radio was a popular pastime for many
Chatting on CB radio was a popular pastime for many

A CB radio craze hit Northern Ireland in the early 1980s.

Men and women (but mostly men) took to their bedrooms, sheds or cars of an evening to have stilted conversations with strangers over unused, crackly AM radio. It was the internet chat-room of its day.

It was easy to tell if a property housed a CB enthusiast as a gigantic aerial swayed on the roof.

Other users might attach an absurdly tall antennae to their car roof, beep their Dukes of Hazzard horn and spin donuts at the local car park.

The CB radio itself was a small box with a walkie talkie-type mic. Users gave themselves nicknames, or ‘handles’, like Slim Jim or Lazy Bones.

There was a whole new lingo to learn, too, like ‘What’s your twenty?’ for location, and ‘Roger’ for OK. Occasionally users would have an ‘eyeball’ - meet up in person.

CB radio enthusiasts mourned the death of American country singer C.W. McCall, who died earlier this month at the age of 93.

McCall was the troubadour of truck-driving songs, who helped add Citizens Band (CB) radio lingo like “10-4 good buddy” into the national lexicon thanks to the novelty hit Convoy released in 1975, a song that celebrated CB radios and the community of long-haul truck drivers who used them.

CB radios lost their appeal when mobile phones became popular and almost overnight it was ‘over and out’ for the fuzzy, but fun, communication system.