- Are all of these the same? Shortwave, CB, and HAM
- If they are not the same, which one is better?
- Which one can be easily hidden (doesn't HAM need a big antenna?) for broadcasting?
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Here are your answers:
No, they are not the same.
Imho, ham radio is much better. It is just plain fun. It can use shortwave and talk all around the world. It can use hand-held radios to talk around town.
It works when nothing else does. Where the rubber meets the road is in emergency situations: When the cell towers quit working there will always be ham radio.
There are small antennas for all of these.
Nitpick: The term broadcasting is point-to-multipoint, which is only done on ham radio briefly in order to establish a point-to-point connection for actual communications. It is not like a commercial station that continuously broadcasts to anyone who cares to tune in.
Here a Q&A that examines some of the issues I think you are looking for: Should I use ham or cb radio?
Ham radio is the most flexible and most capable, and I should say in my opinion, the most fun of the two Ham versus CB radio. I am not answering for Shortwave Listener type radio hobby because that is quite a bit different in some respects and I know quite a few Ham radio operators who are also avid shortwave listeners (to non ham band broadcasts).
Ham radio on HF bands is world wide communication. You can't do that usually with CB. It is theoretically possible for a 5 watt CB signal to get good skip in the peak sunspot cycle but often there are not any other parties on varieties of countries that are replying to CB transmissions.
Another difference between Ham and CB is that Ham radio offers plethora of different communications modes. The conventional AM, SSB, CW, and FM then the various Data modes like RTTY, PSK, and a seeming myriad of others.
Ham radio offers such esoteric activities as Moon bounce or EME (Earth-Moon-Earth communications) and also a variety of satellite capabilities for extending the reach of your signal (in particular, your VHF/UHF signal).
My favorite mode is CW and that represents close to 95 to 98 percent of all my activity. The value of CW is that is really can cut thru the noise without using a lot of power. Most of my CW contacts are 100 watts and less for both ends of the QSO.
Ham radio is also a fraternity of like-minded people who join together in local amateur radio clubs, in contests, and other group activities including emergency traffic handling and offering communications in disaster areas hit by hurricanes or other calamities.
To many ham radio operators, part of the enjoyment is building something -- that is, home brewing your own equipment, radios, amplifiers, antennas, and even computer assisted operations with home grown software. Therefore, I think more than CB or other SW listening activities, Ham Radio is very much into education, training, and helping others in times of need.
Shortwave or HF is a broad term that describes any radio use roughly in the 1mhz-30mhz range, and includes shortwave listening, CB, and Ham Radio.
Shortwave listening includes listening to anything in this range, including broadcast shortwave.
CB and Ham Radio in the US allow receiving and transmitting on specific ranges of frequencies based on laws and rules formulated and enforced by the FCC.
CB is channelized AM that anyone can use (free open license) but is limited to 5w and all of its frequencies are in the 11m wavelength band.
Ham Radio or Amateur Radio requires a license to transmit. To get a license (in the US) you must pass a basic knowledge test that includes questions about the technical, legal, and safe use of Amateur Radio. Multiple ranges of frequencies have been allocated to amateur radio with a much higher power limit, which is at least in part why there are saftey questions on the exam.
CB is better if you want unrestricted communication with cheap equipment and no exam. Amateur radio is better if you want to use more power and use more frequencies, including ones beyond shortwave. Amateur radio equipment can be cheap or very expensive, depending on what you want it to do and how much quality you want. There's practically no upper or lower limit on cost. (The lower limit would be kit radios built from scraps -- almost free!)
You can use amateur radio knowledge to build better antennas and hidden antennas, and this applies well to shortwave listening and CB as well as amateur radio. (An antenna is an antenna, the theories work for any radio.)
Amateur radio (in the US) has some very minor restrictions on what you can transmit.
Broadcasting is one person talking to many people with no expectation of a response; this is prohibited in amateur radio, as amateur radio is two way communication -- which means you have to at least occasionally stop transmitting so you can listen. Broadcasting is prohibited.
Transmitting for profit is banned in amateur radio. It is intended to be a hobby for people to enjoy, not something you get paid for. (If you want to transmit for profit, get a commercial license on commercial frequencies.)
And lastly, amateur radio prohibits communications that are not family friendly, as it it is intended that even children might be in the hobby.