What are 10 Codes? The Meaning, History, and Examples

10 Codes-Meaning And Details
What are 10 Codes?

10 codes are radio signals used in radio communication, especially among law enforcement officers. They were invented by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International (APCO) and are also known as ten-codes. Charles Hopper, the Communications Director of the Illinois State Police, created these codes between 1937–1940 to facilitate quick and clear communication among cops.

History of 10 Codes

In the 1930s, radio technology was still new and limited. Police radio channels were scarce, and officers couldn’t stay on the line too long, or others wouldn’t be able to get through. 10 codes were invented to communicate information quickly and clearly.

The use of the number 10 before all the codes was a workaround. It took a split second for the motor-generator in the radios to warm up, and so the first syllables of a radio transmission were often lost. The 10 was used as a placeholder to give the motor-generator time to speed up enough to hear the second part of the code.

The codes were quickly adopted by others communicating via radio, such as CB (Citizen Band) radio enthusiasts and truckers. Popularization of the 10-4 code in mainstream culture occurred in the 1950s with the TV crime drama Highway Patrol, starring Broderick Crawford, who would start his radio conversations with 10-4. The expression 10-4 further spread into popular culture when it was featured in C. W. McCall’s 1975 song “Convoy,” where he uses trucker CB radio slang like breaker one-nine (a radio channel used by truckers) and 10-4. The song went number one on the charts in the US and abroad and was even made into a movie in 1978.

 10-4 has shown up in hip-hop lyrics, too, like Ghostface Killah’s 2004 “Beat the Clock,” where he raps: “…ten four, may day-may day / Callin’ all cars, callin’ all cars.” This use is inspired by 10-4 in cop-speak.

Who uses 10 Codes?

While still in use, ten-codes, including 10-4, have been replaced by plain language in more and more police departments due to the variation in what the codes mean. However, truckers and other CB radio users still use them.

Examples of 10 Codes

The 10 codes range from 10-1 to 10-100+. Each number has a specific meaning, and here are some examples:

10-1: Unable to Copy- Change Location
10-4: Message received - I got you
10-7: Out of Service
10-8: In Service
10-12: Stand By (Stop)
10-18: Quickly
10-33: Emergency
10-73: Smoke Report
10-106: Secure (Status is secure)

Communication is essential, and that's why the 10 codes were created to enable quick and clear communication. However, due to the confusion in what the codes mean, many police departments have opted to replace them with plain language. Regardless, the use of 10-4 has become a staple expression for saying "OK" in American pop culture.

In conclusion, understanding the history, meaning, and examples of 10 codes is vital to comprehend how radio communication in law enforcement and other fields have evolved. For more information, visit the sources listed below.

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