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Number Stations Gone Wild

[Ringway Manchester] has an interest in numbers stations. These mysterious stations send presumably coded numbers or other coded information. However, it is rare that anyone claims credit for these stations. Normally they operate with military-like precision, adhering to strict operating schedules and sending out their messages error-free. [Ringway] looks at five times when things didn’t go as planned for these spy stations.

Perhaps it isn’t surprising, however, as machines have likely replaced human operators. That makes them prone to errors when the computers go awry. Many of the errors are ones of frequency, where two number stations wind up transmitting at once. We suppose spies all use the same few frequencies. Some, however, also had computers go haywire and start going through the alphabet which, of course, could have been part of some secret message protocol, but appeared more likely to be a simple mistake.

We were amused, though, to hear the store of a Czech spy station that not only had a licensed call sign but would send QSL cards to people who reported reception. Perhaps they didn’t get the memo about secrecy!

We’ve listened to a few number stations in our time. If you don’t have a suitable antenna, you can always try hunting them online. But don’t expect to catch them making any mistakes.