Roger Williams
Radio Corner
An American Institution
"How about it Black Knight, got a copy on the Meat Grinder?"  
"Go ahead Meat Grinder, what's your 20 [location]?"  
"Hey Black Knight, I'm on the super slab [highway] at the 20-mile marker on Highway 15." 
"Meat Grinder, y'all see any bubble gum machines [police cars--because of the flashing lights]?"  

"Negatory, Black Knight...let ya know if'n ah sees one." 

"Hey Black Knight, be sure an' lets me know if'n y'all see a Kojack with a kodak [radar detector]." 

Knights of the Road

This is the way they talk to one another, these "knights of the road," the guys and gals who drive the hugh trucks delivering so much of the products we use in our everyday lives. It is the language of the CB (citizens band radios).  The names are called "handles" and the knights of the road wear them proudly, even using them to address each other off the radio. 

The driver called Meat Grinder is asking Black Knight where he is, and if he's seen any police cars. He may ask someone to meet him at a "choke and puke" (a restaurant) for a bite to eat, or ask where a "10-100" (bathroom) is. This language of the truck drivers on their short range communicators was popularized in the late 1970s with the song "Convoy," and the popular movie "Smokey and the Bandit" with Burt Reynolds, Jackie Gleason and Sally Field. 

For a generation, truck drivers have used their CB radios to advise each other of road conditions, weather reports, proximity of law enforcement, good and bad restaurants--and generally keeping track of each other. Without their CB radios they're lost. Most truckers have at least one spare, because without the radio they are isolated, no longer a part of the trucker community. 

General Use by the Public--The 40 Channel CB

Over the years, the general public has joined the truck driver in CB usage. We find motor homes in convoy, cars going across the country, people on the road who are using CBs for communications, as a safety device, and also to keep in verbal contact with fellow drivers. Sales reached their peak in the 1970s with around 7 million sold per year, and have leveled off at around 3.5 million sold per year, recently. In one way or another, it's safe to say that most readers of this article have had some contact with a CB.  

Until the early 1980s, CB radios were federally licensed devices with many restrictions imposed on their use. When the courts held that fees could not be charged for licensing, the requirements were removed because of their "non-profitability" to the government. We then entered an era of little control, and the rules are now self-imposed.  

The Good Sam Club (motor home drivers) runs nationally on channel 14 of the 40 allocated channels, truckers use channel 19. The national Philippine Clubs use channel 30. And most African-American organizations operate on channel 6--and many of them large and famous (in the CB world). 


In cycles of seven years, sun spot conditions allow CB radio signals to be reflected off the ionosphere and travel throughout the world.  The sun is about to cause a worldwide "skip cycle." For the next seven years an operator in California will be able to communicate with the East Coast and on some occasions, Europe. With Japan, Australia and the Pacific rim countries, communications will be regular. There are thousands of operators in these countries anxious for the "skip" to roll in so they can have this broad new contact. When the sun stops its explosion cycle there will be seven years of relative quiet, where signals stay local. Skip time is exciting for the long-range aficionados. 

It's midnight in a motor home out West, and the driver, attempting to stay awake, is able to chat with a fellow operator in Queensland, Australia. The CB not only provides a means of communication, but can offer a bit of an education on people in other countries. For some operators this is the only opportunity they will have to make such a contact. A good radio and antenna to make this kind of contact will run about $200 to $300. Many members of the CB community have made lifetime friends this way. 


CB In America

The conveniences afforded by the use of these inexpensive short-range communication devices are many. The small hand-held walkie-talkies are used for neighborhood watch groups, for backing up motor homes in the driveway, for car-to-car communications, for hikers, hunters and fishermen in the field, and other applications too numerous to mention. 

A small mobile CB radio can be powered from a car's cigarette plug with an adapter, and used with an inexpensive magnetic antenna, for a total price of around $80. Mom or dad can go to the store and not worry about a flat tire, maintain safety, and have a tie-line to home within 5-10 miles if home is used as a base to complete the communications and support them. 

During the 1950s, amateur radio developed a system called "Single Sideband" (SSB). The CB systems have an inexpensive version of Single Sideband, added to the radio for an additional $75 per unit. This system is about 50 times as efficient as the traditional a.m. CB and is used mostly for "shooting skip" (talking long distances). The drawback of the  sideband system is that it uses less space, meaning the receiver must be tuned to the voice of the transmitting party. Once the receiver is tuned (single knob tuning) and set, then communications can begin. The advantage is that more than one station can occupy the same channel and the range is much greater.  It is generally agreed that SSB will occupy channels 31-40 with 37 used as a "call channel"--meet someone there and move to an unoccupied place leaving 37 open for the next caller. There is both "upper" and "lower" sideband, which is a more complex thing--however, needless to say, this doubles the number of available channels. 

SSB clubs are organized throughout the world, many people belonging to more than one. These clubs issue free membership numbers, so if you go to channel 37 lower sideband you may hear "Alpha Charlie 1245 calling H.F. 4568." These are clubs communicating with each other. Alpha Charlie is a San Diego-based club with 22,000 members, about half of whom reside outside the United States. 
As a journalist, who is a CBer, visits other countries he has the opportunity to see his club brothers and sisters in person and there's nothing more enjoyable, for instance, than spending an evening with an Alpha Charlie brother in Sidney Australia. Meeting on the radio, they have talked for several years and can now be "eyeballed" (CB jargon for meeting). 
The growth in technology has reduced the cost of these simple devices, made them more efficient and easier to use. There was a period of time during the history of CB that hobbyists were the main users, talking within a three-mile radius, jamming each other to see who was "channelmaster."  That has all changed now--communication is paramount. And even though we now have wonderful new devices such as the cellular phone, they haven't lessened the bond between the Knights of the Road and their CBs. 
As time goes on, and the ability to use long-range skip is better understood, the use of this communication format will grow. In the meantime: 

"Hey Black Knight, Meat Grinder is callin' yer number." 

"Meat Grinder, ya'll jammin' steel [shifting gears] ?  

"Naw ahm poppin' turtles [speeding, weaving in and out of traffic]." 

"Hey Black Knight, ya'll see the Road Alligator dude [truck with a tire blown out] ?" 

"Yea he skid N' Flash [slammed on his brakes]." 

"Well, this Meat Grinder's gonna shut 'em down cause "Smokey's [cop] on ma tail." 

"O.K. Meat Grinder, take em easy, keep the shiny side up and the dirty side down." 

"Right on Black Knight, 10-4 Good Buddy." 

...And the beat goes on. 
 Send any questions or comments to me at All input, especially from the amateur radio members of the media is welcomed.

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