Children Of The SunMarch 24, 2008 at 11:45 AM | Posted in Journal | 1 Comment
Things are different now, aren’t they? But then again, aren’t they always–?
My dad was a truck driver, and we lived out in a rural area. This was in the 70s, and CBs were a natural extension of our life way before that damn movie "Convoy" came out.
We lived about an hour from St Louis, where both parents had to drive for work. Cell phones? Are you kidding? This is the 70s. This is….the Stone Age. The peak of technology was the TRS-80 and the Atari 2600.
And the world was in color, but it was grainy; not hi-def.
We had a CB in every vehicle, of course. There is a shelf of radios down in my dad’s basement, still there. Unused, untouched for years. A bygone day…
There were CBs with 27 channels (or was it 23?), and then the newer models came out with 40. Then there was also sideband, upper and lower, which was actually FM. We hardly every used sideband. Of course, 19 was for truckers, like a community bulletin board. Channel 9 was for emergencies. But people also had channels that were their "home" channel. Our channel was 4. And the other one was 23.
Of course we had the base station in the house. It was quite a setup, like a stereo system. The standing mike on a base, connected to a big radio. Ours was "modded out"; originally we had 120 channels (40 normal, 40 upper and 40 lower sideband), but a friend of dad’s added a chip and a switch, giving us 360 channels, essentially the entirety of the 11 meter band of wavelengths. This went into some of the Ham radio frequencies.
On top of the base was the control for our directional antenna, and the switch between the two. Because we had two CB antennas. On the roof of the house was the TV antenna (which allowed us to pick up 6 and sometimes 7 completely different channels) and the omni directional; it radiated in all directions. On top of the garage was the "Moonraker"; it had a motor and could be turned any direction.
Next to the base was the linear. Linear amplifier. We pronounced it "lean-yer." CBs had a maximum output of four watts; anything more was illegal. We had a variety of linears, ranging from 100 to 1000 watts. We had power. And just to verify that power, above the linear was a meter. Knowing how I am about gadgets, I recall now how my dad was. He thought all of this was neat as shit.
By the way, the base was modern and transistor-ized. But the amps–the linears–were all tube-powered. They took 15-20 minutes to warm up.
I didn’t get up early often on the weekends, but when I did, I would come downstairs to the kitchen and find dad in his underwear, sitting on the stool in the corner of the kitchen–at the "command center"–drinking his coffee and listening to the radio. Nowadays it’s called lurking. Often he would be talking to some truckers that he knew…my dad knew alot of people. I can see his gregarious nature passed down all the way to my daughter–his grandchild.
And when the time was right, he would talk skip–communicating with people all over the world. When the sunspot cycle peaked, the radio waves would bounce off the upper atmosphere and back down. And then back up. And repeat. We could get sometimes four or five bounces, which is what it took to talk all the way around the world. To Australia. He could turn the directional antenna either way and talk to them. He made friends in Australia, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Finland, and many far off places in the US, like Maine and Florida and Washington state. I still have the post cards–confirmations of those exchanges.
My dad was one of the first bloggers…
They are called so many things nowadays, like logon, username, unique ID–but then it was called one thing: Your handle.
And we all had one. Some of my dad’s friends I only knew by their handle. Dad had two of them, and I forget what the other one was. You had one for skip and one for regular talk. I forget the skip handle, but his regular handle was G.R. Grim Reaper. The funny thing was, even though this was nominally a nickname, he still had a nickname for his nickname. The show "Dallas" was popular at the time, and the main bad guy was "J.R." My dad would be called G.R. or J.R. interchangeably.
Mom’s handle was Miss Information. Or, Misinformation. Dad had friends like Bandit, PeeWee, Old Yeller, and GI Joe. My handle was Viking Boy, which I hated…and came up with another one: Southpaw. My friend’s handle was Backhoe.
I’d come downstairs and shiver from the mix of warm and cold air in the house in the winter. I’d smell the coffee Dad had brewed, and some sausage in the pan that he had cooked. I’d sit with him and watch him, as he listened attentively for some signal or message, and call out the world in the language of the day. He leaned forward, his ears perked toward the speaker, and pressed the mike key.
"Skipland, skipland. CQ, CQ. CQ DX. GR hollerin at you, Skipland. CQ DX." When you got an answer, and was able to talk to someone, it was like stumbling through blogs and finding someone new to talk to.
It was like…magic.