Time for tech to improve CBs

Quimby Mug Bayou Florida Headshot
Updated Feb 6, 2016
The overall 10-20 on CB technology is in the dark ages and in desperate need of a tune-up.The overall 10-20 on CB technology is in the dark ages and in desperate need of a tune-up.

I read a telling article this past week in our sister publication, Truckers News, about how a trucker failed to get a response on his CB after attempting to alert other drivers about a bad accident in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Try as he might, the trucker kept broadcasting about the pile-up, but never got the slightest 10-4 in return.

The trucker reports on YouTube that he learned later that the accident on I-90 had gotten much worse as more cars and trucks kept ramming into each other. What started out, he says, as a 10 to 15-car pile-up worked its way up to 85 vehicles, including 12 trucks.

“It’s very disheartening. I did everything I could to warn those guys that they were coming up on a wreck,” the man says in the 5-minute video. “I yelled on the CB, yelled on the CB, yelled on the CB trying to get people to answer me. Thirty-two miles…no answers…no answers.”

The trucker believes that it’s important to stay connected through CBs, especially during winter.

“I get that a CB is a pain in the butt, and the noise bothers you. I get that. I don’t blame them a bit for that. But in the winter time, run the CB. At least that way you know what’s going on. You could save a life.”

He may be right.

There was a time when CB radios were a vast part of American culture. Before I was 10 years old, I was introduced to a Cobra 29 in southern California. I was infatuated with it and went on to get different sets, coax and antennas.

God knows I’ve carted around my collection for years and have no plans on downsizing. Stuff ranges in size from a Motorola transistor all the way to a cumbersome Antron 99. Though I haven’t keyed up in years, it’s hard to part with any of it.

Long before cell phones and social media were all the rage, my friends and I would stay in touch with CBs. As I got older, my wife and I would use them on trips to keep tabs on traffic. We’ve used them during boating trips, and they can also come in handy when living in hurricane country and other modes of communication are knocked out.

But CBs haven’t evolved much, at least to the point where they can overcome one of the biggest complaints out there—blabber mouths.

Having 40 channels and single-side band offers some help in avoiding mic hogs that broadcast nothing but nonsense. Keying up on a loud mouth is another way to tone things down. Still, none of that has been enough to attract new users or even keep old ones hanging on.

And it’s not like people are shying away from mass communication. Quite the contrary. Online social media websites have popped up like mushrooms, and people are eager to use them for a variety of reasons. The difference, of course, is that it takes little effort in either reading or ignoring a message on Facebook compared to dealing with Alligator Mouth on channel 19.

Mass communication has changed virtually everywhere, save for the CB. And it’s a way past time for a change. Since you can’t expect every user to exercise good judgement, it’s time for technology to come around to make things a little bit easier on everyone’s ears.

If you can unfriend someone on Facebook, then you should be able to do the same on a CB. Maybe this could be done through voiceprint data analysis or a unique signal given off by a high-tech CB. Either way, the user should be able to block an annoying hailer without giving up a channel or shutting off the CB altogether.

Of course, guys running barefoot may still have an advantage by simply and silently keying up with gobs of power that pegs the needle so far to the right that they end just about every conversation below nine pounds.

Some may also have privacy concerns over a unique, identifying signal being emitted from a CB while the user chats away. While I understand that, cell phones operate on that principle, and because of that, those revered devices allow us to use call blocking, if we so choose.

Obviously, there’s still a need for devices that allow for instantaneous, mass, two-way audio communication. That large accident in Erie makes that perfectly clear. And since CB etiquette doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of improvement, it’s way past time for technology to step up and blow off the dust on these decades-old devices.