Author Archives: Robert Gulley

Going By the Numbers

For those who follow numbers stations or, like me, enjoy seeing articles about numbers stations, below are a few paragraphs from a recent article in Radio World by author James Careless:

“6-7-9-2-6. 5-6-9-9-0.” Tune across the shortwave bands (above AM/MW), and chances are you will come across a “numbers station.” There’s no programming to speak of; just a mechanical-sounding voice (male or female) methodically announcing seemingly random groups of single digit numbers for minutes on end.

Congratulations! You are now officially a spy-catcher, to the extent that you may have tuned into a spy agency’s “numbers station” transmitting one-way instructions to their minions worldwide.

Numbers stations are unidentified radio broadcasts that consist usually of a mechanical voice “reading out strings of seemingly random numbers,” explained Lewis Bush, author of “Shadows of the State” a new history of numbers stations and the spies who run them. “These are sometimes accompanied by music, tones or other sound effects.” He said. “There are also related stations broadcasting in Morse Code and digital modes.”

The article goes into some of the history of numbers stations, but also talks about modern stations from all over the world. A worthwhile read for those so interested!

Do Shortwave ‘Numbers Stations’ Really Instruct Spies?

Cheers! Robert AK3Q

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

Heil Sound and Last Man Standing


The following was posted through an email from Heil Sound:

When the producers of the popular TV show, “Last Man Standing,” needed an authentic ham radio set-up to use in the show, they turned to Heil Sound’s Amateur Radio Division, helmed by Bob Heil. Now, thanks to the generosity of the show’s star, Tim Allen, props from the show – including some autographed by Mr. Allen – are being offered for sale with all proceeds going to the Red Cross.

The full article may be found here:

Last Man Standing Charity Items

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

An Old Radio Soul

I find old radio souls now and again who seem, at least to me, to be in touch with the spiritual side of radio. I am not talking about religious programming or some weird cult, but rather they are folks whose souls have been touched by the magic of radio. It is mystical, magical, and at times seems to connect our physical bodies to the very electrons which flow through the air. It is as though our minds are connecting with the radio signals like old friends, able to hear and be heard.

Yeah, I know, I am weird. Radio is in no small part connected to me in a special way because of the role it played in my youth. Perhaps more recent generations will not be able to relate since their exposure to media has been raised by orders of magnitude compared to my generation. For me, and at least some of the “old souls” I have met, radio touched a very special place in our hearts and in our imaginations. It was “other” and yet uniquely ours.

When I discovered shortwave radio I thought I had found radio nirvana (okay, maybe that really came only after I got my amateur radio license and could talk, literally, around the world). Shortwave radio first connected me to the world, however, as finding stations on the air meant being exposed to people from completely different cultures who were both unique and yet just like me.

Music has always had a direct path into the soul, but it is not just my own culture’s music which stirs me–I find life in the music of all cultures. Shortwave radio allows me to experience this life as a welcomed outsider. The music and words are there for me to take in, offered from the hearts of those who created it. We become bound together in our humanity in those moments, much as we become bound together with nature as we listen to waves crashing against the beach or when rain splatters in the forest.

The comedian and banjo player extraordinaire Steve Martin once said in a comedy routine, “You can’t play a depressing song on the banjo,” and proceeded to demonstrate the perky, upbeat sounds of the instrument. I feel this is similar to listening to music from around the world–we cannot be disconnected from those with whom we share such intimate moments though music. I may not understand the words, but my soul understands the heart within the music.

There are those who say shortwave radio is dead because so many stations have gone off the air. Shortwave is alive and well, and evidence of this is there for all to see if they are willing to look. It is not FM, it is not audio streaming. It is radio. Signals speeding through the air, bouncing off the atmosphere, crashing waves of electrons hurtling through the ether to find expression through our speakers and our headphones.

The noise and static which may accompany the signals are evidence of the hard-fought battle waged by those electrons to reach our shores and thus our ears. “You made it!” “You made it!” The signals arrive scarred from the journey, but they are here and they speak to us. And they arrive all up and down along the dial on every band, on every day without fail. They are here, just waiting to be discovered, even if now and again they must play a game of hide and seek with us because of seasons and solar cycles and shortened propagation paths. They are here, nevertheless, I promise.

Radio is the medium which brings together all of these things for me and fills my soul with gratitude. -73, Robert

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

The Ghostly Radio Station that No One Claims to Run

There is a great article by Zaria Gorvett in the BBC Future online magazine concerning several transmitting stations which have baffled folks for decades.

Here is a brief introduction:

In the middle of a Russian swampland, not far from the city of St Petersburg, is a rectangular iron gate. Beyond its rusted bars is a collection of radio towers, abandoned buildings and power lines bordered by a dry-stone wall. This sinister location is the focus of a mystery which stretches back to the height of the Cold War.

It is thought to be the headquarters of a radio station, “MDZhB”, that no-one has ever claimed to run. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last three-and-a-half decades, it’s been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues.

Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”. And that’s it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen in, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz.

It’s so enigmatic, it’s as if it was designed with conspiracy theorists in mind. Today the station has an online following numbering in the tens of thousands, who know it affectionately as “the Buzzer”. It joins two similar mystery stations, “the Pip” and the “Squeaky Wheel”. As their fans readily admit themselves, they have absolutely no idea what they are listening to.

The whole article is a highly enjoyable read – check it out! 73, Robert AK3Q

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

Interesting Article on Connection Between Amateur Radio and Radio Professionals

I thought I would pass along this article from Radio World concerning the connection between Amateur Radio and Broadcast professionals. (And please, no flames for not being strictly SWLing related!)

Here a taste of the article, while the full piece may be found here:

Many people who work in broadcast radio got their start as amateur radio operators — hams — and remain active in the hobby.

At iHeartMedia alone, “we have 157 people on our ham radio list,” said Charles Wooten, director of engineering and IT at iHeartMedia Panama City, Fla. An amateur radio operator himself since the age of 12 (call sign NF4A), Wooten maintains that list. “Ninety percent of them are engineers, but we also have DJs, program directors and operations directors.” At least four of the company’s regional engineering VPs are hams.The fact that so many of iHeart’s hams are engineers makes sense. Many of the skills that a ham learns to get on air are the same needed by a technical broadcast professional.

Enjoy, Robert AK3Q

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.