Breaker, breaker. This is bad news coming at you.
Good buddy is dead.
You were prepared for the end of the decade, perhaps. Maybe even prepared for the end of an era. But how about the end of the CB radio fad?
Since 1976, in its heyday, when nearly 11 million CB radios were sold and 5.1 million CB licenses sought, sales have been slipping every year to the point where industry watchers expect only 2 to 2.5 million CB radios to have been sold when the register receipts are added up at the end of 1979.
Not only that, but "it's been years since I've heard a new country music song about CB radio," said a spokesman for the Electronic Industries Association.
It's a far cry from the halcyon days of the mid-1970s, when normally sedate men and women acted out truck driver fantasies in jargon from the privacy of their cars; when former first lady Betty Ford, in an excess of trendiness, applied for her own license and became the First Mama; from the days of handles, and Smokies and CB weddings and picnics on the side of the George Washington Parkway arranged by commuters making dates over the rush-hour airwaves.
"The jargon seems to be going away. It's not the giant fun kind of party line that it once was," said Mark Rosenkerk, spokesman for the Electronic Industries Association. "I don't think there are as many prostitutes using it. I don't think there are as many people on the line as in its heyday."
To Rosenkerk, the change from a large faddish industry to a small serious one appears a change for the better he said. "There are shorter, more utilitarian communications on CB," he said. "That's good. That's what CB was orginally used for."
Law enforcement officials now treat it more seriously, with most police forces monitoring CB Channel 9 for reports of accidents or other emergencies called in by passing motorists, Rosenkerk said.
"For the most part people are using things such as radar detectors" now for law enforcement evasion, instead of their CBs, he said. "People are using their CBs more for direction finding, or for keeping boredom from setting in on long trips, or reporting drunk drivers," he said.
CB radios have been marketed since 1958, but experienced slow growth until 1972. Sales, which had held steady at about half a million radios a year, doubled that year and kept growing until 1976. CB radios' popularity increased markedly during a time of gasoline lines, when other drivers noticed truck drivers using the radios to find open stations.
The decline began in 1977, when sales dropped by 2 million from the previous year. In part, that decline was blamed on government regulations as well as fading faddishness.
In August 1976, an item in the Federal Register announced that as of Jan. 1, 1978, sales of 23-channel CBs were banned. The sets had been found to interfere with reception on some televisions sets. Replacing the 23-channel models were 40-channel models, but for a year the two models were sold side by side.
Dealers dropped prices on the 23-channel models to get rid of them and then found few takers for the 40-channel models, according to Rosenkerk. In turn, they dropped the prices of 40-channel sets and then found themselves dropping prices again for the soon-to-be-obsolete 23-channel models.
In the years to come, there was no recovery. Sales have continued to decline by about half a million radios each year.
License applications to the Federal Communications Commission last year were less than half what they were in 1976. Dealers have gone out of business and so have trade and hobby magazines that catered to the CB fancier.
"You had 125 to 150 different labels of CBs in its heyday," Rosenkerk said. "Most came in from Japan, but there were eight or 10 American manufacturers. Now we're down to about two or three American manufacturers, and I don't know how many in Japan."
Still, there are a large number of radios still out there. Since 1958, approximately 50 million radios have been sold. "As many as 30 million are perhaps still in use," Rosenkerk estimated. "There are still about 15 million licenses in effect today."
"People want to be in touch," Rosenkerk said.