Listen to spies' shortwave radio broadcasts

Gareth's post yesterday about the mysterious shortwave numbers stations used by spies to communicate happily reminded me of this article I wrote for bOING bOING Digital back in 1999 about the Conet Project, a legendary compilation of numbers station broadcasts produced by Irdial-Discs! Of course, this piece was written before Irdial-Discs sued the band Wilco for using a sample from the Conet Project recordings on their 2002 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. From bOING bOING Digital:

Twisting the dial of your shortwave radio, you come across the most "experimental" sounding station you've ever heard. A glockenspiel tune is followed by the voice of a little girl speaking numbers and letters in what sounds like a random order. Performance art? No, the message inside the madness just wasn't meant for you. Perhaps its intended for the ears of a CIA agent. Or KGB. Or MOSSAD. You've stumbled across a Numbers Station.

"Shortwave Numbers Stations are a perfect method of anonymous, one way communication--spies located anywhere in the world can be communicated to by their masters via small, locally available, and unmodified Shortwave receivers," reads the Web site of The Conet Project, an outfit that's compiled 150 Numbers Stations recordings from the last three decades on a four CD set. (The word "Conet" is the sign-off signal on one station.)

Is this spy stuff true or not? Well, a rare mainstream media article about Numbers Stations published in the Daily Telegraph last year quoted a spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry, responsible for regulating the airwaves in the UK: "These (Numbers Stations) are what you suppose they are.

Read the rest

Hey, remember number stations? Whatever happened to them?

When I was writing my book, Jamming the Media (1997), while working on a chapter about pirate radio, I went deep down the rabbit hole of hunting down pirate stations, shortwave stations, police and military radio, and number stations. The latter are mysterious radio broadcasts of unknown origin where a series of numbers are read over the air. These are widely believed to be coded messages to spies in the field from the world's intelligence agencies.

I was surprised to run into this video on Curiosity Droid and to discover that number stations are still a thing. I would have thought that, in the age of encrypted digital communications, number stations would be archaic and unnecessary, but maybe entrenched government infrastructures are hard to dismantle, even when they're obsolete?

Image: YouTube Read the rest

I'm loving this Reggae, Dub, Ska and Rocksteady internet radio station

LISTEN: 'Heavyweight Reggae.' Yep, the name is right, and the channel delivers. Read the rest

Baby Yoda's just fiddling with the radio (meme alert)

There's a scene in the fourth episode of The Mandalorian where the unnamed child (aka Baby Yoda) is literally pushing Mando's buttons, well, the buttons on his ship anyway. Since it aired, the internet has been doing its thing — imagining Baby Yoda is playing with the ship's radio.

The meme started a couple of weeks ago, so there a TON of them out there. I picked out a few of my favs:

And, OF COURSE...

(Geekologie) Read the rest

Pacifica Radio ignores injunction, continues to play canned content on NYC's WBAI

On Oct 7, workers and volunteers at New York City's beloved Pacifica Radio affiliate WBAI received a sudden notice informing they that they were all fired without notice or a board vote, as is required by Pacifica's by-laws; the next day, a court issued an injunction requiring Pacifica to reinstate local programming until a hearing on Oct 21. Read the rest

New York's WBAI Pacifica Radio affiliate has shut down, orphaning 2600's Off the Hook, the Hour of the Wolf, and many other beloved mainstays

WBAI is a beloved New York City institution, owned by the Pacifica Foundation and run primarily by volunteers who produce longrunning, cultural-defining shows like Jim Freund's Hour of the Wolf (science fiction) and 2600's Off the Hook (information security and tech policy). Read the rest

New Ways of Seeing: James Bridle's BBC radio show about networked digital tools in our "image-soaked culture"

James "New Aesthetic" Bridle (previously) is several kinds of provocateur and artist (who can forget his autonomous vehicle trap, to say nothing of his groundbreaking research on the violent Youtube Kids spammers who came to dominate the platform with hour+ long cartoons depicting cartoon characters barfing and murdering all over each other?). Read the rest

THE BUREAU: Part Five, "The President Has Been Shot!" — with an RF Nomad Shortwave Radio Receiver

From the weekly series The Bureau.

Adblocker for radio

Tomek Rękawek, irritated by ads on the radio, created an app that mutes them. Radio Adblock uses digital signal processing to detect distinctive audio patterns that signal the beginning and end of breaks. (via Hacker News)

I also prepared a simple standalone version of the analyzer, that connects to the Trójka stream on its own (without an external ffmpeg) and plays the result using javax.sound. The whole thing is a single JAR file and contains a basic start/stop UI. It can be downloaded here: radioblock.jar. If you feel uneasy about running a foreign JAR on your machine (like you should do), all the sources can be found on my GitHub. Apparently, it works :)

https://soundcloud.com/tomek-r-kawek/commercial-block-muted

To make it work universally, perhaps DSP could detect the use of extreme waveform compression. This makes ads sound as loud as possible without increasing the signal volume, and is a technique that advertisers and radio stations supposedly use to skirt the regulations that forbid them from doing just that. It would also have the bonus of silencing shitty pop songs. Read the rest

What was hot in pop culture in June of 1998

YouTuber thepeterson makes video montages that pull together clips from pop culture days of yore, highlighting what movies and TV shows the masses were watching, what they were listening to on the radio, and what video games they were playing. In the latest one, June 1998 is put into the spotlight. Prepare to take a (possibly nostalgic) trip down memory lane to see what was "in" twenty years ago this month.

(Tastefully Offensive) Read the rest

Enchanting mix of experimental, minimalist, and ambient cassette music

Brandon Hocura of the excellent Seance Centre record label mined his (and his friends') rare and vintage cassette archive to create this sublime guest mix for the Noise In My Head show on NTS Radio. Listen below, preferably with headphones. Turn on, tune in.

Noise In My Head W/ Brandon Hocura (Seance Centre)

Tracklist:

Claire Thomas & Susan Vezey - Bright Waves Pablo's Eye - Blind And Quiet Mo Boma - Jijimuge Two (Rebounders / Nanga Ningi) Robert Haigh - Andante (For Strings, Piano, Percussion) Sebastian Gandera - Chienne De Viel The Field Mice - Let's Kiss And Make Up Richard Truhlar - Portrait Of An Interview Hearn Gadbois - Gaht Mayh Moh8joh3 Woykihn John Celono - Instrument Flying Bruce Russell - Indigo Pool Joanne Forman - Codex Antonio Zepeda - Cuando Los Dioses Juegan A La Pelota Roberto Mazza - Artigli Arguti Peter Griggs - Fragments John Di Stefano - Nuage Philip Sanderson & Michael Denton - Maps (Love In A Cold Climate) Short Term Memory - Words Houari Benchenet - Katrouli El Mhaine Jack Charles - Traverse John J Lafia - Life Is Short Short Term Memory - Hysteria John Di Stefano - Culture Schlock Smith & Erickson - Blue Skies Tony Wells - End Collage Pauline Oliveros - Earth Ellen Zweig & Gregory Jones - Sensitive Bones

Previously: "Keyboard Fantasies: exquisite New Age music you've never heard" Read the rest

Cities' emergency sirens will play anything you send them over an unencrypted radio protocol

It's been a year since someone hacked all 156 of Dallas's emergency tornado sirens, setting them off in the middle of the night, and the security picture for cities' emergency PA systems keeps getting uglier. Read the rest

Someone tracked all the songs played on "WKRP in Cincinnati"

Someone watched reruns of WKRP in Cincinnati, tracked all the songs played on the show, and then put them in this spreadsheet.

Dr. Johnny Fever played the first song played on the show, Ted Nugent's "Queen of the Forest," which marked the end to the previous radio station's format (Muzak/Swing) and the beginning of the new WKRP format (Rock, Punk and Top 40).

All right, Cincinnati, it is time for this town to get down! You've got Johnny... Doctor Johnny Fever, and I am burnin' up in here! Whoa! Whoo! We all in critical condition, babies, but you can tell me where it hurts, because I got the healing prescription here from the big 'KRP musical medicine cabinet. Now I am talking about your 50,000 watt intensive care unit, babies! So just sit right down, relax, open your ears real wide and say, "Give it to me straight, Doctor. I can take it!"

Now someone just needs to make this into a Spotify playlist. Who wants to volunteer?

Previously: WKRP in Cincinnati redacted to save on license fees

Thanks, Christopher Bickel! Read the rest

Prankster repeatedly hijacking radio station broadcast with masturbation ditty

The UK's Office of Communications is pursuing a pirate radio prankster who has interrupted the Mansfield 103.2 broadcast eight times over the last month. He cuts into the regularly scheduled programming with the below tune from 1978, "The Winker’s Song" (1978) by Ivor Biggun. From The Guardian:

Tony Delahunty, managing director of Mansfield 103.2, said: “Some people have told me that their children have started humming the song in the car.

“We have had calls from people who have found it hilarious, while some have raised their concerns, including our competitors, and a lot of people in the industry are aghast at how difficult it is to stop these people...."

“We are told by Ofcom who are investigating the matter, that you only need, and this is the frightening thing, a small transmitter and if you can get near where there is an outside broadcast or a signal and you can overpower that signal [and] you’re on the airwaves.”

Read the rest

Listen: 1950s radio mystery prequel to Frasier

Shawn writes, "A gaggle of Chicago comedians came together to produce an authentic 1950's radio show about how Frasier's parents met while solving the murder of a young Seattle waitress. Featuring young beat cop Marty Crane and behavioral psychologist Hester Palmer, this thing's got it all: mystery, comedy, rats, operas, and a well-utilized HOLIDAY SETTING. You don't have to be a Frasier fan to enjoy it, but if you ARE, you should also know that it's faithful to all established Cheers/Frasier continuity. We even have a full list of citations, in case you don't believe us. Read the rest

Pick out live radio streams from an image of a globe

Radio Garden is a beautifully designed interface for listening to live radio. Just roll the planet around and click on a dot.

By bringing distant voices close, radio connects people and places. Radio Garden allows listeners to explore processes of broadcasting and hearing identities across the entire globe. From its very beginning, radio signals have crossed borders. Radio makers and listeners have imagined both connecting with distant cultures, as well as re-connecting with people from ‘home’ from thousands of miles away – or using local community radio to make and enrich new homes.

Read the rest

Solo Radio uses AI to match songs to your facial expression

At this week's London Design Festival, design firm Uniform displayed Solo Radio. Stand in front of the device and it scans your face for input into software that assesses your emotions. Then it plays a song via Spotify algorithms with the appropriate mood. Read the rest

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