You thought driving with a handset was not only dangerous, but also a phenomenon that started less than 20 years ago. You’re wrong, because CB PHONE.
A Facebook friend of mine pointed me at this glorious amalgamation of old-school communications technologies, and my mind reeled. How on earth did we not hear about the dangers of distracted driving way back in the heyday of CB radios in cars, now that I know some CB radios had phone-like handsets attached to them instead of the customary microphone?
There are probably a few reasons, actually. One being I’m not sure if these were a hugely popular install in people’s cars back in the ’70s and ’80s. The handset does add quite a bit of bulk to the radio, and unless you had a cool console to mount it in, that could prove awkward. And let’s remember consoles used to be a lot rarer than they are today, if we’re talking ’70s and ’80s cars.
Another reason these might not have caught on: They used standard CB radio frequencies. Your conversation was not private. Nor would it travel very far, assuming you ran legal radio equipment– the FCC sets CB radios’ maximum transmit power at 4 watts, which on a crystal clear day on flat ground might reliably result in about 2.5 to 5 miles of range. Of course, many CB operators don’t exactly pay attention to those regulations– sometimes to their own peril— but still, the best you might reliably hope for would be coverage of several square miles.
Nevertheless, the CB phone was a foreshadowing of things to come. There’s a lot of similarity between these and the legendary Motorola “bag phones” of the late ’80s/early ’90s. Little did we realize the slippery slope upon which we were treading!
Hat-tip to Jason Moreland for telling me a bit about this cool vintage communications tech!