I was reorganizing all the various gadgets I have in my car – GPS, XM, phone charger, etc. All of these require power from the cigarette lighter, which got me thinking about probably the first device that used the lighter as a power outlet – the CB Radio.
In pre-Internet days, the CB was the original chat room, an audible one at that. There was the jargon, made popular by country and western songs and Smokey and the Bandit movies, handles instead of screen names, and it required a certain nerve and bravuro to get the feel for the conversation, jump in, and talk to absolute strangers.
Like chat rooms, there was a certain anonymity, although it would be harder for an adult male to disguise his voice enough to sound like a fourteen year-old girl. Also unlike Internet chat rooms, conversations were limited by the range of the device, so you were more likely to actually meet someone with whom you were chatting.
Since I was always afraid to show my ignorance, or get called out as "uncool" by using the wrong phrase, I tended to lurk and listen more than participate. I had a friend whose father had a fairly sophisticated base station. I would visit him and listen, attempting to translate on the fly. By the time I could drive, I had my own CB radio in my car, but used it only to keep track of what was happening on the highway.
The increasing silliness of popular CB culture and advancing technology soon brought an end to the device’s popularity. As previously mentioned, chat rooms have replaced the conversational function of CB radio. Cell phones finished the job by providing a more reliable means of communication. CB’s still have their use, but only as an aid to truckers and other transportation-based industries.
Silly jargon and culture aside, there has not been a device to replace the one-to-many communication function of CB’s on the highway. Cell phones are one-to-one. I sometimes wonder how road rage might be affected if one could communicate with any car nearbly on the highway. Would it diminish with increased communication, or would it increase with trash talk? Given today’s society, it would probably be the latter, and would only add yet another distraction to drivers.
One last note – The National Academies have a website entitled Netsafe Kids. In the section that describes online chat rooms, one finds the following quote:
Chat rooms are popular, real-time modes of Internet communication used to initiate, establish, and maintain online relationships. The online equivalent of CB radio—where one person talks and anyone listening in can hear and respond—chat rooms are usually text based, but text can consist of links to Web pages.
I’m afraid the reference to CB radio would be lost on kids, although it might be familiar to their parents. Chat rooms themselves are declining in use among kids in favor of quicker communication that is independent of computers, such as IM and cell phone texting.
[tags]chat, CB Radio[/tags]