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From CB to amateur radio license

My first encounter with the radio was in 1980 when I rediscovered a pair of walkie-talkies stowed in a cardboard vestige of a previous move. I was then sixteen years old and here I am looking for a few batteries to power these devices which had surely not served much since their commissioning on a past birthday.

It did not take long before I tried to extend and improve the reception by modifying the talkie briefly and replacing the telescopic antenna by a coaxial sneaking into the chimney until a portion of electrical wire stretched on the roof. My first steps in electronics and my first soldering iron.

The earliest listening was what we can hear on AM mode with a broadband receiver: radio stations on short waves, radio Beijing, radio Moscow, Radio France International etc ... And then there were these conversations heard, made more or less brief passages on the most varied subjects, each operator giving the microphone to the next, these codes (73 ... 51 ...?), That particular jargon that I began to note and understand. I had just heard the CB enthusiast.

This "CB" for "Citizen's Band" was not very populated locally and everyone knew each other, had already contacted or heard or met. This CB of the 80s of which I quickly was a part was nothing more nor less than a fantastic social network, "Faceb00k" decidedly nothing invented.

And then there were the SSB contacts on a forbidden but tolerated part of this 11m band, a beautiful playground and experimentation of the phenomena of propagation, the construction of antennas and other accessories whose usefulness was sometimes questionable. It was on this strip 11m and for more than a decade I was able to make a beautiful world Tour, from the great continents to the smallest islands like Bora-Bora or Rurutu. My call sign 14E824 era came from the Earth Dx International Group, one of the first international associations headquartered in Brazil. It does not exist anymore today, but I still use this call sign.

I also remember a period when I tried to go as far as possible with the least amount of means possible. My record having been Argentina with 100mW in terms of power and Australia with less than 10W in terms of distance.

I was beginning to become more and more attracted to the amateur radio world, having already some books on the subject which I often drew from my attempts at constructions.

There was, however, a difference between these two worlds which led me to always prefer CB even if the technique interests me. The CB, born of a need of the mens to be connected to each other, had a human dimension, the technology of the means used being secondary. Amateur radio was born from the desire to experiment with a means of communication, in short to concentrate on the technical dimension of radio, often to the detriment of this human dimension, precisely.

The year 1992 came with the advent of the new law for car license that apply a demerit points system which in my opinion was the programmed death of the CB of the 80s. Each one could then get a CB sold in the form of a kit including an antenna Shortened ridiculous and a small AM station in order to listen to the channel of the truckers on the 19th, and thus be warned in real time of radar controls. The CB then became a means of saving the points of its car license, but not only. Unfortunately, of these new-fals- CB enthusiast many thought to hold there an anonymous way to vent his frustration.

It was this disappointing period that finally ended up motivating me to prepare and pass my license amateur radio and I gradually moved away from this 11m band become so different from this happy decade that I had known.
I have long wondered why the amateur radio world had not reached out to the CB enthusiast while many of them were interested in the human side as well as the technical interest of the radio. We could have multiplied by 3 or 4 the number of amateurs in France in the 80s. But that is how matters stand.

In rethinking it today, I am pleased to have known this great period of the CB, including in terms of propagation since I was able to take advantage of two "peaks" of the cycle of solar activity and therefore of The propagation, these few rare years where we could contact Canada every day with a few watts on a vertical or even Australia!

Back to 11m band

After many years as a radio amateur, I note that the QSOs that have most marked my memory are those made on the 11m band, more akin to real conversations and something human. Due to its status, amateur radio is on shared bands where it is often not a priority and where it must be confined to the realization of so-called "experimental" links. The QSO is often reduced to the strict minimum, the exchange of call signs and the reports punctuated by a thank you.

And then there are the Clusters. This means now on the Internet (before, was on the packet radio network), allows anyone who will have heard a station to report, time, frequency, call sign, etc ...
It is enough to monitor a Cluster to know the arrival of a rare station (dx) and to rush on its frequency which does not fail to create a "queue" that is commonly called "pile-up". In addition, the Clusters are integrated with the software logbook especially with the possibility of filtering the results and directly controlling the frequency of the transceiver.

As it is known that dx stations often register themselves on the clusters to be sure to do more QSO and faster, we do not see much interest today to do listening in The hope of "falling" on a distant station by chance.

Today, the CB no longer exists as a local communication medium with a "social network" dimension. It is very rare to see an antenna on a roof or to cross an equipped vehicle. But there are still a few enthusiasts in SSB and they can be relatively numerous according to the regions, testifies to the many calls heard when the sporadic propagation so special on this band, opens a little.

I always have an "ear" on the 11m band with my call sign of the time, 14E824, and there regularly do some QSO in voice and CW ;-)