Back in the 1970s, when the internet was barely formed and mobile phones didn’t exist, there was a fledgling sort of “social media” that was arguably more popular here in Australia than anywhere else.

Known as CB (Citizen’s Band) radio, it let anyone with a “walkie talkie” communicate with friends or co-workers, but also let people broadcast messages out into the world to see if anyone would respond. Way back in 1975 it was the inspiration for a truck-drivin’ country song called Convoy, a number one single in Australia that planted CB radio lingo into the heads of the Countdown generation.

Things have changed a bit since then, though. While the Aussie government tried to charge a hefty licence fee for using a CB radio in the ‘70s, they’d dropped that idea by the time UHF came along. Using less crowded frequencies and providing way more channels, UHF is now the default for all radios sold in Australia (and we’re one of only four countries that uses them).

So, who buys these things today? There’s a wide range of handheld UHF radios available, with Japanese brand Uniden dominating the market, and it’s the diversity of their range that’ll give you an idea of how useful these things can be.

Just like the kids in Stranger Things, UHF radios are hugely popular with Aussie kids for keeping in touch with friends, heading out on adventures or just keeping in contact with home.

With that in mind, Uniden makes 3 and 4-pack sets of radios designed for kids, compact but full-featured with a built-in LED torch, a bright LCD display and four different colours. They have a limited transmit power of half a watt, making sure conversations stay local (they also have a “Kid-Zone” feature that lets parents block out unwanted conversations so kids can use the radio between just family and friends.

Tune in to the truck vhannel!
In Australia, UHF radios support 80 channels, but some of those channels are restricted and radios made for Australia won’t let you talk on them, just listen. Other channels are unofficially used for specific things – like channel 40, which is the go-to road safety channel for truck drivers around the country. While these days most truckies are more likely to use mobile pahones, you’ll still hear traffic on channel 40 when giant-sized loads are being escorted.

The grown-ups aren’t left out, though, UHF radios are ideal to put in the pack when you go camping of hiking – they can let you keep in contact with your mates if you get separated, and could prove invaluable in an emergency (channels 5 and 35 are the official emergency channels, by the way, using repeaters to get your messages out further). Uniden’s advanced 5-watt radios (the maximum allowed power in Australia) are able to transmit up to 17km on regular channels as well.

A pair of these compact radios can also be put to use for everything from concert and theatre productions to music festivals, but they’ve become especially popular with tradies on large building sites, where the “walkie talkie” can be an essential. There are a couple of bundle packs for tradies that include a pair of radios, earphone and speaker mics, belt clips and charging accessories. Of course, you don’t have to be a tradie to get value from these do-everything packs – the radios with their long-life lithium battery packs make them ideal for anywhere you need regular, reliable radio contact.
UHF radios are now high-tech, durable and feature-packed communications tools that survived the rise of the mobile phone – simply because of how useful they are.

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

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