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 operators.
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
relatively 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...