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Author Topic: Oldest known numbers station/History of numbers stations  (Read 937 times)

Offline Rizla

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Oldest known numbers station/History of numbers stations
« on: November 02, 2019, 2153 UTC »
So QST had a numbers station article in the last issue. They started their history with the Lincolnshire Poacher.

Of course there were the Enigma decodes in WW2, in fact I've heard the Germans got lazy and re-used their keys, which is how the UK hacked them.

Does anyone know what the earliest "traditional" numbers station was, using one-time pads or other cyphers?

I would guess it goes back to the telegraph... I said in another thread that Amundsen used a cypher to telegraph his message
after reaching the South Pole. I suppose we could go back as far as John Dee, or the Romans, but so far as telegraphs and radio,
anyone know the earliest? It would have to be pre-WW2. (?)
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Offline IZS4

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Re: Oldest known numbers station/History of numbers stations
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2019, 2207 UTC »
Found this via Google-

In this technique, a plaintext is paired with a random secret key (also referred to as a one-time pad). ... First described by Frank Miller in 1882, the one-time pad was re-invented in 1917. On July 22, 1919, U.S. Patent 1,310,719 was issued to Gilbert Vernam for the XOR operation used for the encryption of a one-time pad.

Wikipedia has a longer write up on the subject also.
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Offline Rizla

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Re: Oldest known numbers station/History of numbers stations
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2019, 0121 UTC »
Cool, I'll have to look up Miller. I know Wiki has stuff but I figured people around here might know even more, much more...

The Enigma 2000 team would certainly have an opinion. Who was first? UK? Germans?

That book on USSR radio is another source I'll have to look at.

So, maybe not WW1. WW2?

I suppose it depends what one means by "numbers station." I know the classic ones are pretty much Cold War entities.
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Offline Josh

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Offline Rizla

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Re: Oldest known numbers station/History of numbers stations
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2019, 2354 UTC »
Thank you very much indeed, Josh.

edit: What a masterpiece of intelligence service writing. A history of radio in warfare, Mr. Flicke's life work it would seem.


« Last Edit: November 08, 2019, 0045 UTC by Rizla »
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Offline 3da0km

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Re: Oldest known numbers station/History of numbers stations
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2020, 0807 UTC »
Perhaps the very first true sigint occurred during the Boer War. I'm quoting from "De la Rey--Lion of the West", the biography of Koos de la Rey, one of the greatest military geniuses ever, who invented both classical trench warfare and guerrilla warfare, the latter including teaching his mounted troops how to shoot from the saddle. This is from p. 204f:

"... one of the few Free State officials who had remained loyal, a man called Acton, had a most interesting apparatus with him. This was called a Vibrator, a most ingenious invention which one could use to intercept message where telegraph wires were cut. The apparatus was put up where the cut wires lay one the ground and one could hear quite clearly what was being said. The magnetic power of this Vibrator was so strong that it drew the stream through the ground. Thus they heard all the telegrams from Lord Roberts to Generals Broadwood, Plumer, Clements and Page, virtually all the military manoeuvres being intercepted by Acton. This was a great help, De la Rey goes on to say, for as they knew the enemy movements it was a saving not to send out horses on unnecessary scouting movements, and they could also plan their own actions accordingly."

Towards the end of the war in particular, the Boers survived on supplies plundered from the British. The Vibrator should take its place in the history of warfare.