Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Spy ‘Numbers Stations’ Still Baffle, Enthrall

In the early 1990s, at the end of the Cold War, before the onset of the Internet Age, 
Courtesy, SpyArtStudios
you could tune across the shortwave bands and hear the monotonous drone of an automated woman’s voice calling out long strings of numbers in Spanish. “Siete — Quatro — Cinqo — Cinqo — Cinqo,” the voice would say, pause, and then switch to a new set of numbers. The Spanish-language female voice station became known as “Attenćion,” due to its repeated use of that phrase at the beginning of each transmission.

These transmissions, which had started at the end of the Second World War, weren’t always in Spanish, nor were they always female. Other languages were used to broadcast entire strings of numbers, which many believed made up a coded message that could be heard by anyone with a shortwave radio. The consensus view at the time was they were meant for secret agents operating in foreign countries...

Today, with the Internet Age fully mature and the Cold War buried under 20 years of modern history, the numbers are still being transmitted. (more)