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About me and my radio hobby

My radio-hobby started in 1974. I mainly listened to pirate radio stations on FM and mediumwave In addition to my Philips L1G30T transistor radio I had an old Philips B5X43A radio, which I mainly used to listen to Radio Veronica, Radio Northsea, and Radio Caroline. The B5X43A also covered the shortwave bands.

In the late 1970's, I discovered shortwave radio, but not in the way you normally would. I was working on a project and needed sound effects. Spooky effects and the sound of guns. I didn't have sound effects lp's or other gadgets, but I did have the Country Joe & the Fish single "I-feel-like-I'm-fixing-to-die-rag". That song has the sound of a machine gun at the end. That covered the first part of the effects, but I needed more. Then I remembered the weird sounds that I heard on the radio when I turned the knobs of the B5X43A one day. The radio was tuned to shortwave and I heard sounds that I never heard before. It was a radio without BFO, SSB, or something like that, so all ute stations sounded very odd. Especially the rtty stations, but also the aero and maritime stations sounded weird. Their voices sounded very distorted in AM. It sounded quite spooky actually. You already guessed it..... I found my sound effects that night on shortwave. I really had no idea what I heard though; I discovered that a couple of years later.

I replaced the B5X43A in 1978. My new radio was a Sony ST-313L tuner without SSB so I could only listen to broadcast stations. I tried to find Radio Nederland on shortwave. Much to my surprise I heard many, many stations there. I never knew that there were so many shortwave broadcasting stations. Stations like Radio RSA, HCJB, All India Radio, Radio Indonesia, Radio Australia, Radio Canada, and Radio Japan were on the daily menu. There were quite some dx-programs in those days and I think I listened to most of them. The best by far was Radio Netherlands' Media Network. The Voice of Peace and Radio Caroline were also on shortwave, but they disappeared after a couple of years, like the rest of the offshore pirate stations. I was a big fan of these stations, so that was a bad time for me. But there was always Pyongyang to listen to when times were grimm. Hmmm, when I come to think of it, I never managed to listen to this station for more than 15 minutes, except when they played oriental music. AFRTS became one of my favorites because of their good music programs. Except for Radio Budapest, I did not listen to the Eastern European stations, except for QSL reasons. They were far too serious and there was too much propaganda. The same goes for Beijing, but the worst were Radio Pyongyang and Radio Tirana. The African and Asian stations however were really interesting. I remember the night of the coup d'etat in Chad. The rebels took over the radio station and shortwave listeners had the news of the coup a day earlier than most other people on Earth. That's shortwave radio at its best. Besides that, it was great to hear the music and news from so many countries all over the world.

I logged the stations in a way many beginners do; just the name of the station and the language, but that was it. Unfortunately I did not write down essential info as date, time and frequency. After a few months, I began to see that a little more info could be handy, so I wrote down the frequency too. In those days the Benelux DX-Club, based in the Netherlands, presented a monthly item in HCJB's DX-Partyline. So I jotted down their address and joined the club. That was a good move because I now got a club bulletin with lots of info about all those far away stations that I copied day after day. From that day on, I started to write down all relevant log info. Soon after I joined the BDXC, I became a member of the German listeners club ADDX (also via the DX-Partyline) and a now defunct club, KDKC which specialised in pirates and beacons, an interesting combination. Other clubs followed: DX-Antwerp, SPEEDX, UTNL, EUNL, Anoraks, Radio Caroline Movement, Radio Veronica, Radio Budapest Shortwave club, ANDEX, the BRT listeners club, and of course WUN, the Worldwide Ute News Club. When I moved from BC to Ute dx, I said goodbye to most of these clubs.

I lived between the docks and was very interested in shipping. I really wanted to listen to coast stations and ships on MW and HF and two years after I discovered the world of shortwave radio, I bought my first "real" receiver, a Panasonic DR22. Now I was able to tune in to the wonders of maritime and aero radio. Wow... nights in a row I was glued to my new toy. I already collected QSL cards and found hundreds of new stations that I could QSL. The postman had a busy time when I started to write to all those utility stations. Sometimes the response was real nice, like that time when a female operator of one of the Algerian coastal stations sent me a parfumed and hot QSL letter and phoned me a couple of days later :-)

One of the first utility stations that I heard was a German numbers station and in the following days a found a lot of these stations and I am hooked ever since. One of the most interesting ones was the Roumanian numbers station "the Skylark" with its typical gypsy music and "Terminat" that ended their messages. Another nice experience was my first encounter with Space Shuttle Columbia. It circled the earth in 1983 and could be heard on VHF. Cool!!! Even cooler was the QSL from the shuttle. A couple of years later QSL's from The International Space Station and MIR followed. Another very nice QSL came from King Husain of Jordan, who was a radio amateur. Those were the days :-)

I entered a new era when I attached my first decoder to my Commodore 64; it was a Microlog Shortwave/Airdisk decoder. Later other, more sophisticated decoders followed and ute dx completely replaced my interest in the shortwave broadcasting stations. I was thrilled when the first morse stations from Poland and the Ukraine appeared on the printer and a couple of days later I even caught the US Navy in Thurso; followed by many press stations and fax stations. When I browse through my old logs I see long gone stations like KUNA and ATA but also a print-out of former numbers station VDE, dated 17 February 1986. Unfortunately I had a thermic printer attached to the Commodore 64. Most of the paper is now either completely black or the text has faded and became unreadable. To save the rest of my early days collection I made a photocopy of the thermic prints that were still readable. I nowadays spend most time on utility stations, not only between 0 and 30 MHz but also on VHF, UHF and L-band. Further, of course, also "cloak and dagger stations", or, in other words: numbers stations and other mystic sounds on shortwave.

Between January 1995 and April 2006 I was deeply involved in the Worldwide Utility News club that ceased operations in April 2006. WUN was very active and had a great monthly newsletter. Many people were disappointed when WUN stopped and I decided to continue my activities, using a slightly different concept. I started the Utility Dxers Forum on 28 March 2006 with this website as knowledge base for utility dxers, and a mailing list for the exchange of logs and news. A newsletter is no longer issued except for the former Numbers & Oddities column, which I already issued as a separate newsletter during the WUN days.

I am still a member of the Benelux DX-Club.


Pictures of the equipment mentioned on this page can be found here:


The decoder prints are on the history page:


UDXF forum page https://groups.io/g/UDXF

Notes about the Forum


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About UDXF

I started the Utility Dxers Forum on 28 March 2006 with this website as knowledge base for utility dxers and a mailing list for the exchange of logs and news. The newsletter is no longer issued except for the Numbers & Oddities column, which was already issued as a separate newsletter.

UDXF is the Utility DXers Forum. The forum is centered around the exchange of news and information relating to "utility" radio stations and signals, below 30 MHz.

What kind of stations are covered?  Actually everything in the range of 0-30 MHz with the exception of Broacasting Stations, Pirate Stations, and Amateur Radio (with the exception of utility related activities).

If you are listening to the stations mentioned below, then UDXF is the place to be.

What is Utility Radio ?

You may be asking yourself "What is a utility station?" That question is easy to answer. With the exception of Broacasting Stations, Pirate Radio Stations, and Amateur Radio Stations all radio stations are Utility Radio Stations. These stations usually are not intended for reception by the general public. Utility Stations transmit on LF, MW, HF, VHF and UHF. You can find them everywhere. The stations transmit in all sorts of modes: voice in LSB/USB, Morse, many different digital modes, etc. In most cases you need a decoder to decode the transmissions and although many transmissions are encrypted it is still fun to listen to them.

Unfortunately many stations have left the air since the 1990's. When I started this hobby many news agencies transmitted their news in rtty and fax modes. Interpol was still on the air, as were many telephone services. Most of the coastal stations are now defunct but in my early radio years you could hear them from all parts of the world. But althought lots of ute stations left the airwaves, there is still enough to search for.

Here is a summary:

About Numbers & Oddities

URL: http://www.numbersoddities.nl

I wrote my first “Numbers & Oddities” column in January 1995. It was published in the newsletter of the Worldwide Utility News Club (WUN) in February 1995. A couple of years later N&O also appeared as a separate newsletter for WUN and Spooks members. This website was originally setup as a service to the members of these groups. A place where they could find all the newsletters and some additional information. Lateron I have also included a logs database, recordings, links and other relevant information.

What is a numbers station?

Numbers stations are radio stations that are mainly active on shortwave. Mysterious stations believed to be owned by governments, the military and/or intelligence agencies. They broadcast coded messages to agents or military personnel  in the field or to embassies or wherever they are. Some have fixed schedules; others are transmitting their messages on an irregular basis. The messages consist of letter groups or figure groups. Very often in groups of 5 characters but 4 and 3 groups are also quite common. Chinese stations, for example, are often using 4 character groups.

The first reports of coded messages date back to World War I when the military transmitted coded messages via HF. Most of the involved countries had interception capabilities but the British organized as one of the first countries an intercept service. The intercept stations were known as the "Y" stations. The coded messages were further analysed by the crypt-analysts of Admiralty Room 40.

In the early days not all messages were sent as number or letter groups but also as text phrases like “the milk is boiling over“. Interesting are also the Indian code talkers who sent coded messages in their native languages. In both World Wars “code talkers” served in the American forces. The name “code talkers” is especially associated with the Navajo speakers who served during World War II in the Pacific theatre. The first code talkers, however, were a group of Choctaw Indians from Oklahoma serving in the U.S. Army during World War I. These Indians are referred to as Choctaw Code Talkers. Both the Choctaw Code Talkers and the Navajo Code Talkers used Native American languages as military codes that could not be undeciphered.

The codes used by the modern numbers stations are believed to be so called one-time pads. A one time pad is the only currently known secure encryption system, if used correctly. The system was created by Gilbert Vernam in 1917. The technique itself seems to be much older. Steven M. Bellovin, a professor of computer science at the Columbia University School of Engineering found a code book from 1882 that describes a similar technique.

Especially during the Cold War you could hear a host of stations from many different countries like the U.S.S.R., Bulgaria, Czecho-Slovakia, Poland, Algeria, Egypt, U.K., U.S.A., East and West Germany, Hungary, France, Cuba, Yugoslavia, North and South Korea, Taiwan, China, Roumania, and Israel. Languages used include Russian, English, German, French, Spanish, various other Slavic languages, Korean, Chinese and even Tadjik and Farsi.

We have compiled a list of the agencies and organizations who are most likely responsible for the transmissions. You can find it on the files page. Please note that the majority of the information in this document is not officially confirmed.  

The number of stations has decreased dramatically during the past few years but there are still a couple of them alive and kicking.

Note that not all numbers stations are intelligence stations. A number of them are military stations or are linked to diplomatic services.