Philips 90RL411

Number stations

Growing up in the 70-80s, you would have seen various version of some the first portable radios. They nearly only seemed to be from B&O or Philips in my family, like the 90RL411 from Philips what we always had in our kitchen (lasted for every) or the B&O’s Beolit 800 that my grand parents had. Or the wild card from Grundig called either Melody Boy 500 or Concert Boy that I now and again had the pleasure to play with.

There were also bigger ones with tape deck or even a record player, like the Beocenter 1400. I can’t remember the one we had in the living room it was either a Philips or one of the many Beocenter’s.

All had MW, AM, LW as in Medium Wave, Long Wave and the AM band, remember them? Some had marked on them, the main station broadcasting on that frequency, like London, Peking, San Paulo etc.

Listen very carefully, I shall say zis only once

 Michelle Dubois


Late 70s and into the early 80s it was the height of the Cold War and everything you read or watched had something to do with it – movies, news, TV, books, music. And the coolest thing to play in the school playground was 007 send behind the Iron Curtain or Blake’s 7.


One of the things we did while playing a super secret spy, after you have made your own top secret code mind, was to put on headphones and scroll up and down the dials looking for a number station.

At the time I had no clue what they were called or what they were and to some extend still are. But it was intriguing, mysterious and secret when you found one broadcasting. Also the thrill of hearing other languages and different music that you didn’t hear locally.

Reading up on number stations, thanks to the internet, the general consensus is that it was to let spies know things that they needed to know, to just annoy/confuse the enemy or just something to do. I have learned that there was many from the Eastern Pact, South America and Asia. I for sure heard the Russian and Polish ones, heck even the UK or US ones, but might have heard the others over the years. Since they broadcast anything from local language or English, German saying numbers or words, tones, Morse code over and over and over again.

But then again no one ever can or will confirm or deny their existence.

And again thanks to the internet you can feed your inner top secret spy and get to listen to the wonderful world of number stations over on https://priyom.org/ to name just one out of many sites about this.

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