When I read ham-related newsgroups, it always surprises me how many hams hate CB and the people who ‘live’ there. Oh yeah, I agree, some CB operators are rude, they don’t care about others, have more interest in the number of Watts they can squeeze out of their linear amplifier than any other aspect of this hobby. Unfortunately, many hams I hear daily show the same behavior. The only difference is the frequency they operate on.
When I got interested in radio (I think I was eight years old at the time), there weren’t many options. Either you were happy just listening to all those mystical signals, or you became a pirate. After discovering that my portable radio also generated a carrier, transmissions on the medium wave band were the first step. Years later, CB (still illegal at the time) was the way to go. Lots of equipment was home-built.
When CB finally became legal in Holland, hundreds of thousands of young and old people bought a CB transceiver. Were they interested in radio? Hardly. Most of them only wanted to communicate. They hated things like finding and installing a suitable power supply, coax cable and antenna. They hated the 500 mW maximum output power; they hated the overcrowded 22 FM channels they were allowed to use. CB became a big, big mess. CB was just one big garbage bag full of interference, full of people cursing and yelling at each other, while trying to kill the remaining fun by switching on a 1 kW linear.
Fortunately, the Internet was born. Along with it came messenger software such as ICQ and MSN. No need for an antenna anymore, no interference, just communication. Most CB operators abandoned their radio immediately and switched to the Internet. Is CB dead now? No. Quiet maybe. Things changed. CB matured. Instead of 22 FM channels, anyone may use 4 Watts in any mode (CW/SSB/AM/FM) within 40 channels. The operators who stayed, stayed because they love radio. Newcomers come to CB because they love radio. They experiment with antennas, they behave well, they use (kinda) official call signs, they organize contests.
The VRZA radio amateur club in Flevoland decided to allow anyone to attend our meetings, including CB operators. One of our official home frequencies is a CB channel. Many CB operators paid us a visit, amazed that we treated them as they were “real” hams. Most of them are regulars now, studying hard for their official license. Within a year, two of them passed their test. Many will follow. How many of us are complaining about the lack of fresh ham-blood? Most of us, I guess. CB operators? Don’t repel them, but try to attract them.
Hans / PD0AC