|AMATEUR RADIO VERSES CB RADIO
The hobby of Amateur radio and CB radio have close similarities between them, which will
be dismissed by the older generation of Hams of course. CB is frowned upon as simply a
communication tool with no more skill required than using a telephone.
It is true that Amateur radio is a much more technically involved hobby than CB (on the
whole) but it is still a similar hobby. The average CB radio operator is seen as the common
man having a CB radio fitted in his car/house and simply used as a "talking box".
To a degree that can be seen as accurate but if you delve into the Amateur radio fraternity
you will see similarities to this in the average user. The wrongful image of a Full licensed
Amateur radio 'technician' is someone who lives and breaths radio, someone who can
build, tune and design his own radio equipment and magically transmit to every corner of
the globe easily, and it is far from true...
In reality, a lot of Amateurs are the same as a lot of CB operators. They use the Amateur
frequencies to talk about anything and everything with the only difference, apart from
frequencies, is the constant use of callsigns. Some Amateurs are the epitomy of the ideal,
they can build and tune/design/operate their own equipment but so can some CB
A point to make here is the term CB operator. The term CB operator encompasses much
more than 80ch on FM for local chit chat. It also includes the area of the "Pirate operator".
These operators use 11m SSB radios to do exactly the same as many licenced Hams.
They DX to other countries and exchange QSL cards. A lot adapt and tune their own radios
and build their own antennas. The only difference between these DX'ers and Amateur
DX'ers is a licence. The principals are the same. They also both have to assemble their
stations in the same way. Soldering plugs, tuning in antennas and so on.
So, in all, a CB operator who is very interested in radiocommunications can quite easily
take the step to becoming a licenced radio Amateur. The first two licence levels, The
Foundation and Intermediate levels are reletively easy for the average to advanced CB'er
so there need be no fear there. Making it to the Intermediate level will give you the use of
up to 50W output which, when conditions are right, will enable you to DX all over the
world... exactly the same as if on 11m except legally.
The other area of Amateur is Morse code. This has been a point of contention for many
people over the years. HF, ie. 1.5 to 30MHz had, in the past, been exclusively for the A
class Amateurs who had to pass a 12WPM (Latterly a 5 WPM) Morse code receive and
transmit test. This was a City and Guilds examination and for some reason allowed A
class more privilages than B class including the transmitted power levels. One issue was,
why should someone who learnt Morse have greater freedom than someone who would
be quite capable of building/tuning/designing his own equipment but not allowed full
privilages just because they didn't have an interest in Morse. Why would learning Morse
mean they were better than everyone else with good technical knowledge when the
Morse 'A's were just as prone to cause interference as anyone else and had no more
technical skill than many 'B' licensees...
Morse has now been removed from the syllabus and is no longer required for the Full (Advanced) licence. It is still
used and it is up to the individual if it is learnt or not.
Don't be shy, if you think you would enjoy Amateur radio give it a go... There are a lot of people who will help you no
matter what some say. There is also no need to give up CB. A lot of Amateurs use both Amateur and CB bands and
so can you. All it takes is passing a 25 question tick box exam and you are on your way. You only need 18 right to
pass. A little user dicipline should be observed on air but it is only the same dicipline as you would expect from a
decent CB operator anyhow... just don't use 'CB lingo' on air...
Ofcom have a list of Foundation Licence tutors on their website so finding someone in your area to tutor you through
the syllabus should not be too difficult. You can also study yourself by purchasing the appropriate coursework
through the RSGB. Also see my Licence Course Page.
Good luck and hope to catch you on air sometime...