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In the early eighties, the CB radio craze was at its height, though it was showing signs of slowing down. Walkie talkies were fun, as they had always been, and it was great traveling around, with a mobile CB installed in your car. I had taken several trips with friends, and we had all been CB equipped. It had added to the fun of the trips, and made planning, stopping, and meeting up with each other much easier. In addition to this, I had a pretty good base station, with an excellent antenna, at a good location. There were also walkie talkies, for field adventures; but something was missing. What I really wanted, was a good portable unit, better than a walkie talkie, that was not real heavy, and did not require any kind of elaborate installation. I found it in the Midland 77-861.
What Midland did, was to take one of its smaller standard CB radios, and put it in a case, with a 12 volt power supply, and a groundless antenna. The concept was simple enough, and the unit was a great performer, which did have a bit of an advantage over my big 40 channel walkie talkies. The unit was in the form of a pack, which would be slung over the user's shoulder. It only weighed in at a few pounds, and could be set up with the antenna adjusted vertically or horizontally. This made it possible to put the unit down somewhere and set it up as a base. The radio itself could also be easily removed from the case, and set up as a standard mobile CB. It had a standard power and antenna connectors.
The radio itself was an enhanced version of the standard compact CB units being designed for compact installations. Enhancements included a Hi - low power switch, a battery checker, and a manual control for the face lighting. It also had, in addition to the standard 13.8 volt power connector, a 12 volt jack, for use with a power converter, or the built in battery pack. All of these enhancements were there to reduce power consumption, and to give the unit a variety of power choices from which to select. I have used this radio as a portable, with its built in pack, and as a mobile installed in my car and hooked up to my car's antenna and power. I have also hooked it up to an AC adapter, extended the antenna, and put it on the table next to my bed, when I was traveling, but wanted something like a base unit. Oh, how I would have loved this unit when I was a young boy, and wanted a base like the adults.
The built in battery pack was simplicity itself. It consisted of 10 AA rechargeable batteries. the batteries were charged by a combination charger/power supply, that was included with the unit. Power consumption was such that you could monitor for several hours on a charge; but transmitting, particularly at full power, could reduce this time significantly. This was the reason for the hi - low switch, and for the manual control for the face light. The unit was designed for rechargeable batteries, which have slightly lower voltages than standard batteries. A pair of dummy batteries is included, for the user who does not wish to use rechargeables. The adapter/charger was plugged into the pack to charge it, or directly into the back of the radio, when being used as a power supply. With the power on low, or just for listening, a standard low power typical AC adapter could be used, and no special power supply was required. Another power saving feature was the old fashioned circular tuning dial. This was the style of dial used on the older 23 channel units, and had largely been replaced on newer models. On the older units, this dial had been connected to a multiple pole switch, that selected between the transmit/receive crystals, for each channel. Newer systems used PLL (Phase Locked Loop) circuitry, which synthesized channel frequencies, and did not require a separate set of crystals for each channel. So in the newer models, a simple switch, changed the channel, which was then displayed on an LED display. The problem with this, from a power saving standpoint, was that this LED display used power, and used it constantly. So to avoid this, and as a power saving feature, Midland went with the older style dial tuning on this model.
In order to keep things small and compact, Midland put no speaker in this unit. A speaker would not have worked properly anyway, as the entire unit was encased. I suppose that a speaker grill could have been put in the case; but Midland figured out a simpler, more rugged, and more compact solution. Instead of an internal speaker, Midland used a somewhat larger than normal mike, and had it double as a speaker. For mobile use in a car, there is an external speaker jack; but during portable use the speaker was the mike. The whole unit was an exercise in compact design and flexibility.
During the late seventies/early eighties, when these units were being sold, the survivalist craze, as well as the CB craze was in full swing. Many survivalists bought these radios, for their small size, low power consumption, all in one design, and the great flexibility in power sources. The design seemed tailor made for the retreat, the bug out, or the extended nomadic life. These are units that can function anywhere. You can connect it to a standard base of mobile antenna; but a seperate antenna is not required. You can connect it to a car or home power supply; but it has its own internal power as well. You can hook it up as a complete base station, with elaborate antenna and power, or just set it on a table and turn it on. This kind of flexibility, along with the units small size and low weight, give it a versatility shared by few other units. This model was preceded by the model 13-861, which was pretty much the same thing; but with the original 23 channels instead of 40. A photo of both units, side by side, is below.