Old tech still has its uses

From Microdave at N.O.:

Most internet savvy youngsters these days forget that “old tech” can still have uses – as is the case with disaster recovery in the Caribbean at the moment.

Even when traditional jamming is used, the very nature of shortwave propagation means the signal will always get through somewhere.

The post had been about “numbers stations”:

https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/8x858k/the-mysterious-radio-stations-broadcasting-secret-messages

“Numbers stations” – which you can tune into at home – are widely thought to be transmitting coded messages to spies around the world.

Microdave replied:

Re “Numbers Stations” – I used to hear these regularly when I spent most of my time listening to shortwave back in the 80s and early 90s. I don’t think there’s any doubt that they were (still are, indeed) used for sending messages to agents “in the field” – quite literally, in many cases.

Have a look here: http://priyom.org/

I believe the one time pad is still regarded as unbreakable, and requires absolutely NO specialised equipment. A really basic receiver can be hidden easily, and only needs a battery and length of wire. Most internet savvy youngsters these days forget that “old tech” can still have uses – as is the case with disaster recovery in the Caribbean at the moment.

When I used to visit the local radio amateur club, I remember one chap turning up with a complete station in his jacket pockets! Two tobacco tins – one containing a simple transmitter, and the other an aerial tuning unit. A PP9 battery, a morse key and earpiece completed the setup. He proceeded to connect this lot to the central heating radiator, and within a couple of minutes was working other hams all over Europe (using about one quarter of a watt, I think).

In these times of increasing censorship and threats of controlling the internet, people need reminding that simple methods like the above can provide ways to circumvent government efforts to control the flow of information. Even when traditional jamming is used, the very nature of shortwave propagation means the signal will always get through somewhere.

Old farts like me remember the cat & mouse games played to evade the Russian “Woodpecker” – believed to be over the horizon radar, as well as the intensive efforts by then Soviet and Chinese administrations to block “Western” transmissions. Funny how times have changed, and now we need to turn to some of those former countries for stories we don’t get from the Beeb, etc…

Those without suitable equipment can now turn to the numerous remotely controlled, internet connected receivers out there, and listen for themselves.

2 comments for “Old tech still has its uses

  1. Kristin
    October 4, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    Numbers stations are still being aired. Cuba does it mostly and a machine does the female voice that rattles off the codes.

    Nuclear test broadcasts and emergency test broadcasts by US govt are still aired on shortwave. Reason being, radio is the most dependable source of communication in an emergency. It also can be very secure, as in the content is hard to impossible to hack into (previous to broadcast of course)
    some useful info can be found at http://mt-utility.blogspot.com/
    One aspect about radio is that the content can be listened to privately- that is, no database or network provider can know what you are listening to. When you visit a website of course all the information is stored. With radio, you at least have privacy and no one “over your shoulder” to judge your preferences.

    I have a bit of a collection of shortwave radios- from SDRs to vintage analogue receivers. I’ve been a listener since 2004 or so.

    another old tech trivia is that fax is the most secure method to send written information electronically. Almost impossible to spy on or hack into. Fax is used daily today in Japan, especially by businessmen ordering lunch.
    If you want to send someone a written/text note, or even draw a picture, and don’t trust your email or online accounts, send via fax.

    Old tech anecdote: During Hurricane Rita and Ike in Houston TX years ago, my phone service was the only line working in our entire neighborhood. Cellphone networks were overloaded/out of service, plus almost everyone had no power and no way to power their electronics. I had, and still have, landline/copper line telephone service aka POTS which does not require power (the line is powered at the telephone exchange by battery back up for redundancy) it also is least likely to have it’s network overloaded, as it’s not popular like mobile phones are today.

    I am a big fan of old technology. Not out of nostalgia but out of practicality. It works, and works best. Digital networks are not private, and every bit of digital data is sold to a 3rd party and subject to hacking or editing.

    • October 6, 2017 at 2:35 pm

      Radio seems the way.

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