This is a great site! I sure remember
the fun I had with the CBer's in the Detroit area between 1969
and 1972. They were a great group of people at heart. They had
handles like "Viking" (a car-hauler for Chrysler),
"Ice Cream" (he sounded really big, but he was a little
guy. I think it was his mike preamp that did it.), "Gunrunner"
(a Browning Eagle guy, through and through. Sort of like today's
Harley owners), "Birdman" (a chain-smoker), "Firebird
(from "Dowwwntowwwn Moorcity 'troit!"), "Scooby
Sue (a nice gal in Milford, MI)", "Little Elf"
(another nice gal, from Ferndale, MI), "Poncho" (Mike
Workman - a wild but hard-working guy), "Triple M (The Michigan
Mustang Mobile)", "Flinstone"
(sounded just like Fred), "Beaver" (built the biggest
linear amps I've ever seen!), "Beacon" (ran an answering
service, I think), and "Beam" (Beacons better-half).
I could go on, and on, but I'm sure you get the picture. My local
handle was "Ironsides". When the sporadic-E made the
band so noisy that some of the local activity died down a bit,
I joined the "skip-chasers" as the unit "336".
Why 336? I really can't remember. I must have thought it had
a nice ring to it.
My interest in CB radio began with
a pair of Alaron walkie-talkies that I received as a Christmas
gift when I was a kid. This must have been around 1962 or '63.
Every couple of years I got a new set from my folks, an aunt
and uncle or the import/export guy that was married to a cousin
that I really didn't know. One year, 1966 I believe, he gave
me a real walkie-talkie! This thing was big! It was in a leather
case that seemd as thick as a saddle. It had two or three channels
and a whip antenna that had to be five or six feet long and 5/8"
in diameter at the base. Although I
didn't have a pair of them, I could really hear the stations
One day, I heard two very strong
stations talking with each other. The older sounding gentleman
was named Jim, and his call sign was KDS-5504 "base".
After they were through talking, I squeezed the push-to-talk
button on the
walkie-talkie and said "KDS-5504. Do you copy?". Then,
POW! Like a lightning bolt out of the blue, it happened: "That
station calling KDS-5504, come on back." Now what do I do?
Did I just break some law? Should even I answer
Well, I ended up having a short
conversation with him, at which point he invited me over to see
his station. As it turned out, he lived just two blocks away.
His radio was a Johnson Messenger. Along with it he had a nice
desk mike and an SWR meter all on a large glass-top executive
desk. It looked pretty neat to me at the time! This was my first
real taste of radio.
>From that point on, I spent
a lot of time reading about radio. Amateur, CB, communications
receivers, you name it and I probably read it back then. I bought
every communications magazine that I could afford at the time!
I even subscribed to QST (I still have the first 4 or 5 issues
from that subscription).
Later on, sometime in 1968 (when
I was thirteen years old), I was following a path through the
woods which ran along a fence line at the back of some houses.
As I was walking, I spotted an antenna on the back-side of a
It was just 12-15 feet off of the ground, but it was a large
multi-element beam antenna. Through the back window of the house
I could see many large pieces of radio equipment.
After pondering it for a few weeks,
I finally went up to the house early one evening and knocked
on the door. A very pregnant lady answered. I said that I had
noticed the antenna.... "hold on a second... JIM!"
was her reply.
"Jim" was James Buhl, W8SYR. He said hello and invited
me in to his station. He was obviously excited that someone from
the neighborhood had taken an interest in his hobby. We went
into one of the back rooms of the house, and
I was in awe! His station was all Heathkit. In fact, as it turned
out, he worked for the Heathkit store on 8 Mile Rd. in Detroit
at the time. Does it get any better than this?
Jim was a "general" back
then, and he was a 20 meter fanatic. I watched him work stations
all over the world. I even got to work some DX and do a little
rag-chewing myself. I helped him assemble many pieces of Heathkit
equipment. In fact, when it came time to put that 20 meter beam
up on a 50 foot tower, I helped.
If it hadn't been for the code requirement,
Amateur Radio would have had me by then.
Jim and his XYL still live in my
home-town of Madison Heights, MI. My first real radio was a Lafayette
Comstat 25A, the one with the 22A and 22B channels. My first
antenna was a 5/8 wavelength Colinear CLR II. I ran
some kind of Realistic in the mobile back then, but I can't recall
the model number, though. Later on I got my hands on a Regency
Imperial. For DX work I used an old Heathkit DX-100B (I know,
I was a bad boy!)
By 1973, school, cars, girls and
a job got in the way of the radio, so I dropped out of the CB
As we all know, 1975 brought computers
to the forefront of the technology scene. Of course, I was right
there, too. I purchased and built an Altair 8800 after seeing
one on the front cover of Popular Electronics magazine. Computers
have played a big part in my life, as well as my career, since
then. The advent of computers pushed me even further away from
the radio scene.
In 1980, my interest in radio was
rekindled again for a short time by a quirk of fate. Radio Shack
had made a MAJOR advertising boo-boo in the largest Detroit newspaper,
The Detroit News. There it was; a BIG ad with a
BIG picture: "Realistic Navaho TRC-459 SSB/AM Microprocessor-Controlled
CB Radio: $99.95"! Their catalog showed it at, if I remember
correctly, $449.99! After seeing the ad in the paper at my office,
I was at the Radio
Shack store three blocks away in under five minutes (what took
me so long!). Surprisingly, I didn't get much of an argument
from them, so I bought it. Total cost: $103.95 with tax!
I was kind of the Tim Allen type
back then, and the radio by itself wasn't good enough. So I set
out to build a linear amplifier for this rig, and I do mean an
amplifier. I wasn't running a base station, so I would have to
design it as a mobile amplifier. Specifically, it had to fit
confines of a 1979 Ford Thunderbird! This monstrosity used a
PAIR of 3CX1000's, with a special alternator (48-55 volts) and
a trunk full of batteries, wired in series to provide 48 volts
DC for the amps power supply. When finished, it tipped the old
wattmeter at 2,500 watts PEP! I must have
been nuts back then!
It worked fine, but it was a scary
beast to operate. It could stall a whole group of vehicles at
a traffic light when keyed-down. I first noticed this phenomenon
in my own vehicle before I choked/by-passed all of the wires
going into the electronic ignition unit. I could light up the
fluorescent lights in front of most convenience stores and gas
stations quite easily. When it rained, I noticed that a kind
of 'corona' effect formed around the back end of the car (the
antenna was trunk-mounted). This effect also occurred between
the tips of the leaves of certain types of tree's in the area
that managed to get too close to the antenna.
Antennas themselves were a problem
too. I wanted to try something other than a stainless-steel whip.
So I visited a local CB shop in Warren, MI. The proprietor said
"Yep, these here Francis fiberglass antennas will take 4,000
watts PEP!". "O.K. then......." I said, "It
only has to handle 2,500 watts for my use. Let me take it outside
and try it!". He kind of gave me that "Yeah, Right!"
look. "Sure, go ahead." he blurted. I took the antenna
outside, screwed it into the mount, started the car, keyed-down
"Hey Gunrunner, is this thing getting out!". Right
about then my automatic SWR alarm went off (the car stalled due
to the fact that RF would get into everything when the SWR got
above 3:1). So I quickly let go of the mike button. At that point
I noticed that the proprietor of the shop was running towards
my vehicle. "Hey! What are you doing! All of my radios,
phones, speakers and digital clocks just about went nuts in there!
I think you even killed my watch! What have you got in that thing!"
he shouted. To that I replied "I told you I had a BIG amp!
And I JUST found out that these
antennas definitely can't handle 4,000 watts!". After showing
him what was in the trunk and under the hood, he didn't even
think to charge me for the blown antenna!
I have to wonder just how much RF
was hitting the back of my head from the antenna, which I could
see on the trunk lid through the back window. At night, with
the vehicles lights turned off, I noticed that this thing could
actually make the instrument lamps light. At the time, I suspected
was getting in through the rear-defroster some how. If this level
of RF exposure is harmful, it hasn't manifested itself yet (at
least as far as I know).
Because of its ridiculous specs,
complexity, proportions and potential for lethality, this thing
turned out to be more of a novelty then anything else. By 1981
it was time for a new vehicle, and I wasn't about to try installing
this setup into the next car, which would most certainly be smaller.
to pasture it went. The amp was sold (the buyer converted it
to 10/15/20 meter base-station operation) and the TRC-459 went
into the closet. This marked the end of my CB "career"!
In 1989 I got my ham ticket - N8KCT.
But I really haven't been active all that much. I played around
on 2 meters and 70 cm, but, again, jobs, kids, moving all over
the country - I just didn't have the time for it. But your site,
along with recent career events, has again rekindled an old flame.
may not be just for the CB band (I just purchased an Icom IC-706MKIIG
HF/2M/70cm all-mode transceiver, for the mobile, of course!),
but, it's brought me to the realization that, at some point,
you just have to slow down enough to do the things that you really
enjoy doing! Radio has been a
part of me for as long as I can remember. I even did some time
on the air with a local FM station back in the early seventies!
"Good morning! This is Matthew Jay, and you're tuned to....".
From my first walkie-talkie set, CB,
several pirate broadcast stations on both AM and FM (that's FM-STEREO,
ala home-brewed stereo generator, circa 1970), followed by thousands
of dollars worth of shortwave and general coverage receivers,
then finally, Amateur
Radio, something has become quite obvious to me! I like radio!
Always have and always will. I guess a little mental push or
convincing shove has managed to put it all into perspective for
me. Thanks Woody!
Matt Kroll - N8KCT
San Diego, CA