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October 12, 2014

DX Extra - Number Stations show released!

Dear fellow DXers,

It is with absolute excitement to release a special podcast on Number Stations. Last time we released one on this topic the audio was relayed by pirates across shortwave. In case this happens again we have included our original intermission theme. 

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We thank your continuing support and encouragement to produce podcasts and hope this special show will enable us to gauge interest where we sit as a platform in podcasting. 


[DX Extra theme]

Welcome to a DX Extra special

[Audio sample as intro Delta Mike]

[Audio sample – counting station CIA]

Number stations have been on air ever since the end of the Second world war although some think even earlier post World War 1. Heightened during the Cold war. Government Intelligence Agencies from around the world send unbreakable messages in number formats over radio to spy agents in the field, like the famous 007 James Bond

[Audio – James Bond theme]

These are transmitted over shortwave worldband radio, it's in a band in-between the AM radio band and the FM band – it starts just after the AM or Medium Wave band at 1 point 711 mhz and goes up to 30mhz. It's lower than the FM radio band which starts at 87MHz. Unfortunately the shortwave band is less known these days and naturally the Internet, ipads, andriod tablets and smart phones are a much better way of listening to radio stations by simply downloading their app and tuning in. But those who still tune into the old shortwave bands can still pick up number stations if it be in English, German, Spanish or Russian. 

At the top or half past the hour they start off with a little diddly tune, call it their intro – beeps, callsigns or a mix of both. This is to help the agent tune into the frequency and to tell the agent what the station is. 

[Audio – Lincolnshire Poacher]

Stations come and go, some last for ten years while others a year or even a week. After the Berlin wall fell many East and West German number stations went off the air never to be heard again. 

[Audio – ]
[Audio – Magnetic fields]

Number stations aren't always in voice form, some are in Morse code, while others use digital modes to send text and numbers.

[Audio – Wilco ]

Bands such as Stereolab and Boards of Canada have created songs artistically using number stations, in this song called “Pause” by Stereolab you can hear the sound of German numbers being read. 

[Audio – Sterelab – Pause]

One of the biggest questions is why use a public broadcast medium of radio to transmit numbers? It's a simple answer – it's easy to do and easy to tune into over vast amounts of land. Remember that shortwave radio can go for hundreds of kilometres easily covering a whole continent!  But it's very possible the signal even could reach beyond to America or Australia or right around the world. The good thing about shortwave transmissions are that they are hard to trace and easy to pick up with a simple portable shortwave radio.

To finish off, let's have a quick listen to a South Korean numbers station that plays a different song before the transmission begins for its spies in North Korea. The country has had plenty of media attention of late. I've also observed China and Vietnam now have number stations.  

[Audio – James Bond theme No.2] 

This podcast is creative commons copyright 2014 by Hobart Radio International. We used audio from the conet project, other media recordings donated by Jochen Schafer, recordings from Simon Mason's website and other unknown authors. 

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