The unlicensed citizens band

Ahh, the wonders of the unlicensed 27MHz band. We were young boys, lived in a small town on a small island just south of Iceland, called Vestmannaeyjar (e. Westman Islands).

This was before any of us got a full-blown HAM/amateur-radio license, the phone-system was a government monopoly and it was still years until the revolution of GSM.

We wanted to be able to talk to each other from our bedrooms, without paying anyone, and without having our parents complaining that we were holding up the phone line! Besides, the phone-system only allowed us to have a 2-way conversation, but there was more than two of us! This was in the 90’s, probably way after everyone had patched up the phone-system, thus making phone-phreaking obsolete, and I don’t even know if any of those methods (2600Hz et al.) ever worked on our European systems.

One of us was the first to get a CB radio. It was a big base station model, it had two antenna outputs (i.e. a built in antenna switcher), probably around 4 watt output and a hand-held microphone. A relative of his gave it to him, as well as a ¼-wave vertical antenna.

Soon, another friend and myself managed to get our hands on transceivers of our own, so now there was three of us “on the air”. Hand-held CB radios were purchased, we learned how to construct our own antennas so we were ready to surf the waves of the ether anytime, anywhere.

Except it didn’t work all that well.

We didn’t know enough about signal propagation and we didn’t have good enough equipment to do proper analysis on our antennas to minimize SWR and we didn’t really know a whole lot about what we were doing.

But that didn’t change the fact that we had so much fun with all of this experimentation.

Today, CB radios are a thing of the past and I don’t think anybody really misses them, but where are young people supposed find an outlet for their thirst for communications experimentation? Sure, getting a HAM license has become easier now that most countries don’t have a Morse-code requirement anymore, but it’s still hard enough that I doubt anybody is willing to go through it without being quite interested in the subject to begin with.

The internet (or other networks built on the same basic protocols) have become the backbone of today’s communications, but it still relies on services provided by service providers (many of which spun out of the old telephone companies): It’s not point-to-point.

Meet LoRa

LoRa is a low power wireless platform, a transceiver module that implements a robust modulation that allows for communications over distances previously not realized with the small amounts of output power permitted on the ISM bands.

Getting your hands on a LoRa enabled platform is really easy and experimenting couldn’t be easier.

It allows people to experiment with implementing their own protocols, so it has never been easier to create your own wireless digital chat network!

There’s no service provider needed (unless you want to get involved with the many gateway services that are popping up everywhere), and it continues working even if some poor bastard cuts the fiber to your house with an excavator.

I suggest everyone who’s interested in decentralized wireless communications gets their hands on a LoRa module and starts experimenting.

I only wish we had this technology available to us back in the day. Perhaps we would have been able get something really working, instead of just ending up frying the final-stage in our CB radios.