CB In The U K

ABOUT CB RADIO IN THE UK : A Brief History of CB in the United Kingdom

CB radio or to give it it’s full name Citizen Band Radio was first ‘legally’ introduced in the United Kingdom in 1981, but was used ‘illegally’ for many years before then.

Initially a licence fee was charged but was deregulated by OFCOM in 2006 and no licence to use a CB is now required. CB’s operate on 40 channels within the 27MHZ airwaves band.

Early CB radios were imported from America in the 1970′s and used different frequency bands. Popularised by films of the time such as Convoy and Smokey and the Bandit, they proved hugely popular and were legal to own but illegal to actually use. They were finally legalised for use on 2nd November 1981 in the United Kingdom

The twist in the tale was that these ‘american’ cb’s were still illegal unless modified to use the new frequencies, and a £15 fee was payable at the post office for the privilege.

Also, whilst CB was eventually legalised on a 27 MHz band this was not the same band that was used in the USA. America used a band occupying the range 26.965 to 27.405 MHz, the new UK system was to operate on 27.60125 to 27.99125 MHz. The new CB’s also used frequency modulation FM.

Despite these problems, and the extra expense in buying new equipment, the CB craze really took off and many enthusiast clubs starting springing up in towns and cities all over the country. In fact, during it’s peak, channels became so full of CB’ers that it became a problem to use effectively and that contributed to it’s eventual decline in popularity. Much like ‘spammers’ are a nuisance today, filling your email inbox with junk, you also had CB abusers who would play music on a calling channel or continuously press their microphone button blocking other users.

Of course, some users weren’t satisfied with the low power transmissions and used ‘burners’ to boost their signals which wiped out many of the broadcasts possible by the average user, plus of course the use of bad language increased to a point where many sensible users simply lost interest. These problems hadn’t been such an issue when CB was illegal, maybe because it’s use was tried to be kept low key because you wouldn’t want a visit from plod to confiscate your equipment – but now that anybody and everybody could get their hands on one it was inevitable it would start to get misused.

The boom time eventually ran it’s course, especially when mobile phones became cheaper and as new phone masts got put up so more CB aerials disappeared from back gardens.

Citizen Band Radio still retains its users though, and as always it’s the truckers who lead the way. In fact, recent statistics say it’s back on the rise, though will never replicate the frenzy of the early 1980′s.

A Tale of a CB Radio user ….


It’s about 1980 and the internet, mobile phones, emails, satellite television, and pretty much everything else that’s taken for granted today just didn’t exist. You’re 17 and you’ve just passed your driving test – someone tells you about a friend of a friend who can get hold of a magic box that let’s you talk to other people with magic boxes.

What’s it called? – a CB radio -

oooooh! I’ve got to have one !

They come from America – they’re illegal in UK – truckers use them – they had pretty flashing lights on them – they had lots of buttons to press – and they cost more than the heap of a car you’re driving …. It doesn’t get much better than that – oooooh I’ve definitely got to have one!

What a blast – sitting on top of a mountain talking to people a few miles away. If you were lucky, and the wind was blowing in the right direction you could catch a snippet of an american truckers voice that had carried itself across the world. How was that possible – who knows …. something about the sun and skipping or something. Who cared how it happened, it just did, and it was amazing.

The circle of friends you’d made for the first 17 years of life increased rapidly over the next few months. Everybody you spoke to immediately became your ‘good buddy’ – that was what you called them, it was the law – “CB language law”. You had to learn a whole new vocabulary to communicate …. ‘breaker breaker’, ’10-4′, ‘eyeball’, and the start of any conversation was ‘what’s your handle’ – how cool was that.

You got to choose your own nickname – not the one the other kids called you in school – spotty or four eyes or shithead, but one of your own design – something with a bit of class like Ace, or Captain. What we didn’t know then, with our limited imaginations, was how important it was to choose the right handle ‘cos it get’s stuck with you for the rest of your life amongst the new friends you made – friends who I still have all these years later.

The friends I really wanted to make though were ‘seat covers’ – CB slang for an attractive, or more often not so attractive, lady who could occupy the passenger seat of my car. A female voice crackling over the CB was like music to my ears, and unfortunately had the same effect on many others ears too, as the fight to talk to a new ‘lady breaker’ could be quite fierce. The objective was to arrange an ‘eyeball’ with this sultry voiced siren of the airwaves. These carefully planned real life meetings often ended in disappointment, on both sides, but no worries – as the popularity of CB’ing increased, so did the number of lady breakers to clumsily try and seduce.

And so it continued, for a while – bigger and better CB’s were ‘imported’, and longer aerials were installed on cars – so tall that they were lashed to the side of the roof until you stopped to use them. Then, on 2nd November 1981 the UK government made it all legal – though not in the way we pioneers had hoped for. The ‘rigs’ we were using were still illegal because they used a different frequency and operated over longer distances – whereas the legal CB radios had a very limited usage in comparison …. and for some reason it just didn’t feel the same.

It wasn’t the end of the world though – friendships had already been made, ladies had been met, and though we didn’t know it at the time there were plenty of gadgets waiting to be invented in the years to come to keep us occupied.

CB hasn’t died – it’s still very much in use, and an internet search reveals many sites dedicated to it’s use. I’m glad I was ‘there’ when it happened, and at just the right age to fully appreciate it ….. but time rolls on. It’s been replaced by text messaging and emails etc, though they just don’t have the same buzz as using a CB. There’s nothing quite like actually talking to someone. Breaker breaker … any taker !!

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