Archive for the 'Music' Category

FatCat Presents Monster Music 3, Matt Cogger’s “Cosmat Selection”

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Our friends over at FatCat records have posted one of our Monster Music Shows from 1992. Dave Cawley remembers the label from those days:

Its a real honour to share this podcast with you, created by Neuropolitique (Matt Cogger) forIrdial Discs‘ Monster Music radio shows in 1992. I had this mix on cassette and have lovingly held onto it ever since. To think that its 21 years since this was first broadcast – and the music on here still floors me.

Irdial Discs were a huge inspiration to me and i know many others who felt the same. They played by their own rules, followed no one and forged a path that left me speechless. If you want to know how to run a real record label then go and investigate just what they achieved, from records to books, software to radio shows. There was an attitude too that is so lacking these days, statements of intent. In Your Hearts Not The Charts…….We Suffer To Bring You Beautiful Music....

When I read this, it felt like a call to arms and I knew whose banner I wanted to stand by. I always said to myself if we can get to be a tenth as good as them then I would be happy.

Dave Cawley

FatCat Records

The FatCat shop in the West End of London, originating in Monmouth Street were very important hubs of the music scene. They helped many people who were running independent labels, were open eared and open minded, friendly and non intimidating and were not afraid to expose anything that we brought in to the people who shopped there. Compared to many other retailers in London, who would not stock Irdial releases, FatCat was an island of open mindedness.

For example, there were some record shops that put their staff, literally, on apedestal standing over the punters, handing down vinyl to insiders as if it was a sacrament. These unfriendly, closed record shops were hostile to buyers and only a fool would attempt to bring in a 12 inch that they pressedthemselves without knowing the high priests behind the long pulpit.

All of these shops are now gone, and FatCat remains. This goes to show that nice guys finish last, which in business, is a good thing.

And here is our description of this edition of Monster Music:

During the summer of 1992 we decided to do some radio shows, since what we were hearing over the pirate airwaves was very similar station to station, and there seemed to be a need for something out of place. This was especially true on a late Sunday morning, after being completely exhausted by high energy music, a different mood on the radio was an idea just waiting to happen, so we made it happen.

Monster Music was transmitted on ten Sunday mornings, around 11:00.

Approaching the licensed radio stations to do this was of course, absolutely out of the question. They were, as they are now, like cold tombs overrun by the living dead and their stiff, lifeless sounds.

Pirate radio on the other hand was free and alive; you could do literally whatever you wanted, and we proved that this was actually true with Monster Music. No one was vetting our shows, looking over our shoulders or telling us what to do or how to do it. To make this happen all we had to do was call up the station hotline of Touchdown FM, talk to someone and they said “yes” to us.

This is exactly how a free world would work. There would be no licenses to operate a radio station, just as there is no license to run a record label, website or publish a book. There would have been dozens of cool stations out there, all operating together, pumping the music scene. Now of course, there is no need at all for radio, as the internet takes care of all your music needs, from discovery of new sounds to the distribution of them. Anyone can do any part of it, and that is a change that you could not have described to anyone in 1992.

Monster Music’s aim was to be different to anything out there on the pirate air, and having access to some of the best people, it was a simple matter of putting two and two together. I invited Matt Cogger, the genius behind “Neuropolitique”, to construct a show in our studio, which was the third in the series.

The hour of Monster Music Number 3, “Cosmat Selection”, is made up of deftly mixed and sensitively chosen “Techno” tracks, of the kind that drove us all absolutely crazy, and which today, still make the hairs on the back of my neck straighten out and stand up. And that really is something. At the half way mark, there is the exclusive, unreleased, “Theme for Rambo” by Derrick May. One can only imagine what it would have been like if this piece had actually been used in the titles of a Rambo film; machine guns firing in sync with the arpeggiated notes, the backward “shoops” punctuating Viet Vet flashbacks, Stallone’s twisted mouth screaming, attack helicopters raining bullets…

But exposures like that were not to be; it was and is “underground music”.

What are we doing now?

We have been running ablogsince 2001 and we have been developing somesoftware projects.

We are re-releasing The Conet Project in a new 5 CD edition, that we are crowd funding right now. If you would like to have your name inscribed in the booklet that accompanies this release, you need topledge right now.

And we are working on some new and exiting software projects that should be released early in 2013.

And here’s Cosmat Selection…


TCP / 1111 Pledge Update plus a New Conet Project trailer

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

The Digital Marketing people at IGGY put together the trailer above. Its a very beautiful piece. I wonder how many people out there recognise the sound of a 1990’s modem negotiating over a phone line?

Those were the days!

We just mailed out this reminder to all TCP Mailing List members:


Here is an update on our crowd-funding campaign. Thank you to all those who have contributed so far.

Irdial-Discs just received the following message:

“Can I humbly suggest another email to the TCP subscriber list to see if it gets this pledge over the line? People have been waiting for a reprint for years and I’m sure they wouldn’t see a second email more than a month later as too spammy! I’m sure there are a few dozen absentminded people like me who’d put a pledge in if given a second prod!”

That was left on our Pledge Music message board, from maximum 50 contributor Timothy Lenders.

We have reached 71% of the target amount. There are 76 donation slots left to fill, and twenty days to run in our crowd-funding campaign to re-press to TCP / 1111, the five disc edition of The Conet Project.

Only a few more pledges will push us over our target. We need you to pledge right now on our Pledgemusic page:

to make the magic happen. If you forward this message to anyone who you think will be of use to the push, this will help us reach the goal more quickly. Birds of a feather flock together. Your personal email is far more powerful than any press release or news item. Your recommendation can double the effect of this email instantly.

The 5th disc of The Conet Project is full of deep weirdness, unique beauty, perplexing textures, odd rhythms, and savage mimicking communiqus. For the people who respond to the pure sound aspect and musical context of The Conet Project, the 5th disc is pure, mind shattering, jaw dropping gold.

Head over to Pledgemusic, be immortalised as a contributor by donating 50 to the re-press of TCP / 1111, and then share this message with a friend.

The long wait is almost over; all it needs now is for you to…

cut the red wire.


We now stand at 235 pledges, 83% complete, with 50 slots left and 18 days to go.

If you have not secured your place, do it now, for great justice!

The Conet Project: Like Something Out of a Spy Movie

Friday, November 16th, 2012

About 20 years ago, Akin Fernandez discovered mysterious sounds and voices being transmitted over shortwave radio stations called “Numbers Stations” that weren’t documented anywhere. With more research, Fernandez realized that these stations had been used during the Cold War to transmit secret messages from intelligence agencies to their spies … but they were still being actively used though the war was long over.

Such began The Conet Project, which was first popularized when Wilco used a portion of one of the recordings, a woman saying “yankee hotel foxtrot,” in their song Poor Places and as their album title and were later sued for copyright infringement.

Here, we asked Fernandez to write out a description of the project that carries such a mystery with it. Have a listen to a portion of the project in the above clip.

Where did you first get the idea for a project about shortwave numbers station recordings?

In the early 1990s I discovered that you can receive weather maps and satellite images by shortwave radio with a simple receiver and an inexpensive demodulator that attaches to your computer. I put it all together and started to decode weather satellite images from all over the world.

Whilst trying to tune into stations that were transmitting these satellite weather maps and photos, I kept coming across stations that were transmitting strange voices reading out strings of numbers and letters. In one of the frequency guides I owned, there were entries for some of these stations, listed simply as Numbers Station, with no other information.

In order to understand why this is odd, you need to understand how shortwave radio transmitters are licensed and how they behave when they are legally operated. Each licensed radio station on the air is given permission to operate by a government. If it is not, it is a pirate station operating illegally. Each station has call letters, an address, and when they transmit, they announce who owns the station, where it is on the globe and the schedule of transmission times and frequencies. If you write to them with a reception report, they will send a QSL card back to you to say thank you.

The only people who do not conform to these standards are pirates, or people using shortwave for their licensed private use, like ships at sea, and in those cases, you sometimes hear people having conversations with each other.

Numbers Stations had none of this. They did not identify themselves as a licensed station should. They were clearly not pirates, because there were too many of them, transmitting all over the dial in many different forms, and their signals were way too powerful for a man in his garage to be operating. They clearly were not two-way radio telephone calls. These were something different, and the scant information that you could find about them in the 1990s bore this out.

To my astonishment, there were no good sources of information about Numbers Stations. There were a few small books printed by enthusiasts (normally printed very cheaply and bound with staples) filled only with facts you could glean for yourself if you listened to a shortwave.

This was a real live mystery, taking place on a global basis, unreported, scantily documented and passing though the bodies of billions of people every day. Everyone I asked about Numbers Stations didn’t know anything about them. The British Library didn’t have any recordings of them in its collection. There were even some shortwave radio listeners who were huffy and defensive about them, describing them as nonsense.

It was about that time that I lost my mind and had to know everything about Numbers Stations that I could find. I couldn’t stand the idea that this was going on and no one knew about it.

Here was something that had been going on for decades, that had never been reported on in a newspaper, that was inexplicably missing from the plotlines of every James Bond and spy movie ever made, and that was going on unabated after the end of the Cold War. This is something that had never been documented in the National Sound Archive in the country that built Alan Turing’s ENIGMA breaking computer, or indeed that is mentioned anywhere by the people curating the espionage relics of war.

Surely, this could not be real, but it was, and it fell right into my lap.

It was at this point and with all this scant information and the red rag to a bull of Numbers Stations in my face and ears that I decided to stop decoding satellite weather photos and start recording and logging Numbers Stations.

Some might think that this is all a bit odd. For certain, people who take that position have not ever heard a Numbers Station. These are not just plain white noises or unedifying, characterless transmissions likethe UKs Speaking Clock. These stations are very VERY weird; they are so weird that they sometimes exceed the emotional thrust of the inspired compositions of Avant-Garde music composers.

These stations, if you are interested in the sort of music that moves me, are a high form of musical expression, fueled by accident and chance, unique, unrepeatable, mysterious and deeply profound. Their lyrics are meaningful and meaningless. They are spoken by men, women, machine women and machine men. They are clearly designed by very creative, thoughtful, anonymous people. Add into this mix the distortions, reverberations and chance elements that the ionosphere superimposes on these works and the true nature of their purpose, and you get an art form, available worldwide, without precedent in human history.

This is why I released The Conet Project. It took me three years to compile it, and I destroyed my record label, and myself, to produce it.

Where does the name Conet Project come from?

It comes from the words spoken by one of the Numbers Stations which ended with the words Konek.

Some of the tracks actually sound like songs (i.e. Gong Station Chimes). Were you surprised by the musical nature of some of these?

Very. Not only is The Gong Station musical, but for example the Station XPH, which is not explicitly musical, has a mournful slow introduction, and its main body has a phrasing and tempo like a synthesized bagpipe piece. Many stations use music as identifiers, either recordings of pop songs or sets of tones repeating to notify the recipient. Or not. We do not know why these tones were used, because no one who was responsible for these stations has come forward to explain the reasoning behind the design of the transmissions.

Can you tell us a brief history of Irdial Recordings? How does a company gain a vision to put out a project like this?

Irdial-Discs started in 1987. I had some friends that were making wonderful music but who could not find a label to release their work, and I had some of my own work that I wanted to release that no one would release, so it became obvious that I should run my own label.

Irdial originally was designed to be a blend of Factory, Touch and New York Electro labels like Cutting as a starting point. I took all the things I loved about those labels, mixed them with the works of the people that I knew, and made something that was different to everything else out there in every way, from the sleeves to the sounds and the way we mastered recordings.

The most important thing for me is to not compromise. I hate compromise and accommodating the tastes and ideas of other people. And it has worked. It was clear to me that some of the people who were running record labels at the time that I launched Irdial were not really interested in what they were doing as an act of art. They were trying to balance breaking something new against the tastes of the audience, and they were frightened of taking risks.

Take for example, InSync’s 12-inch Storm. This track was mastered onto a cassette. It was rejected by several labels, simply because it was on a cassette. When I was offered it, I immediately mastered direct from the cassette and released it.

I tell this story because it demonstrates how people can’t think for themselves and can have something wonderful given to them on a plate but will reject it simply because they are not familiar with it, or because it comes in a format they mistakenly believe is bad.

Can you imagine what the answer would have been, had I turned up in a record label’s A&R department with the idea for a quadruple CD of Numbers Stations, with an 80-page booklet? The only way great things like this can come to light is if someone takes the risk and refuses to follow the herd. That is why I run Irdial-Discs.

You release your recordings under the Free Music Philosophy, but here youve gone the direct-to-fan route. Can you talk about your choices here in terms of getting the recordings out there to your audience?

Back in 1999, we had been on the Internet for two years. Irdial was one of the first record labels on the Internet. It was clear to me, after spending years in the BBS scene and watching the Internet grow, that it made sense to spread your music everywhere rather than keep it bottled up. This is why The Conet Project has now been downloaded over one million times and is on computers, iPods and devices all over the world.

It would have been very difficult to do this without the Internet, and of course today, its not unusual to see tens of millions of views of pieces of music on YouTube. Giving away music makes sense; superdistribution is the future. The question is, is there a place for record labels anymore, what is the nature of that role if there is one, and how can artists that make music make enough money to allow them to spend all their time honing their art?

I think an answer is coming soon, and certainly an aggregating platform like PledgeMusic is going to be at the center of this new activity, where the owners of it are curators, filtering in (rather than out) the highest art so that people can find who is making the interesting work.

Since the Internet is essentially an infinite space, everyone can coalesce into their own communities so that no sound maker is left out, and rejection from one curator does not mean death, like it used to before the independent label and the Internet.

People need music in the same way they need food. Music makers have been kept away from their public by the scarcity imposed by physical sound carriers. Now that this has changed, its a matter of organizing these forces of nature with software and new contracts to increase the availability of art and get the right sounds to the right people, whilst making sure the sound makers can eat.

Its an exciting time to be working in music, no doubt about it.

The Conet Project: 1111

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

At last, the long wait is over.

The re-release of the seminal ‘The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations’ is imminent. The pressing plant specifications have been finalised, and everyone will have a chance to order a copy.

But there is more. Literally more.

This is a new, limited edition version of The Conet Project, and it will contain the original four CDs, the 80 page booklet, four post cards, and a new 5th CD of recordings of Shortwave ‘Noise Stations’ from our private archive. We are calling this limited edition:

“The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations / 1111”

Irdial-Discs is crowd-funding this edition of The Conet Project through Pledgemusic at

and this is where we need your help to make this re-release a success. Crowd-funding is a new way of raising money for projects, removing the need to borrow money from banks. Crowd-funding lets individuals support art and projects they are interested in, on a direct and personal level.

As a special mark of appreciation, the first two hundred and thirty one people to fund TCP/1111 will have their names written in the The Conet Project’s 80 page Booklet in a section reserved for Patrons. TCP/1111 will not cost Patrons any more than the price of a retail copy.

We need the word about this special edition re-release spread far and wide. It would be very useful to us if you would let at least two of your acquaintances know about this re-press by re-blogging, Tweeting, Tumbling, Posterousing, Googleplusing and putting this message on every other social media tool that is your particular avenue to spread news. After you have secured your place as a Patron, obviously.

Head over to Pledgemusic, secure your copy, and then spread this message. We look forward to shipping this long awaited release, and we are sure you will enjoy the very odd and strangely beautiful recordings on the 5th CD.

When you are there, take a listen to recording number three of four items cherry-picked from our archive on our Pledgemusic page. Recently transcribed while we were selecting pieces for this release, this recording of ‘the Lincolnshire Poacher’ being jammed has been in ‘heavy rotation’ in our office. It is not on the 5th CD. To our ears it is infinitely interesting, compelling and beautiful…but of course it is….we are Irdial!

Nothing to see, hear

Monday, December 12th, 2011

‘Cos I’m a hiphopper. Yes I am.

Crony Capitalists deploy glove puppet schizophrenic luddite

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

The crony capitalist copyright monopoly has rolled out its latest delusional computer illiterate schizophrenic luddite, Jeremy Hunt, to try and cripple the internets.

First things first.

Culture does not need a secretary. The idea that the State should have a position to ‘have a say’ in matters to do with culture is absurd on its face. Art galleries, artists, authors, music makers, sculptors and anyone involved in culture in any way do not need to be overseen, managed, given ‘guidance’ or ‘represented’ by a ministry. Only States like the USSR have traditionally had such corrosive, totalitarian and frankly, disgusting posts. Actually, France has a Minister of Rock & Roll, but France doesn’t count.

Even if you accept that the State should have a ‘Culture Secretary’ the internet is a technical brief, not a cultural one. No doubt there are moves afoot to create a new ‘Secretary for Digital’. The State should not be able to produce these new positions willy nilly, since they are public servants.

OK, Lets do this.

Google should join fight on piracy, says Jeremy Hunt

Culture secretary calls on advertisers and search engines to make life more difficult for those that ignore copyright laws.

What a disgusting, irrational and ridiculous call; to ‘make life more difficult’ for people. The internet exists to make life easier. What Jeremy Hunt is calling for is to cripple the internet, to make service providers divert capital away from improving their services into something that no one but a tiny group of venal beasts want. This is not the call of a human being, this is a call from a monster that wants to destroy progress, inhibit the utility of the greatest invention since fire, and to harm millions of people all over the world. Absolutely repulsive.

Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, is to tell Google and other search engines that they should play a greater role in the fight against online piracy. Mr Hunt will ask them to make life more difficult for pirates.

And they are all going to tell him, politely, to go straight to hell. Jeremy Hunt is in good company; he is spouting the same garbage that Andy Burnham used to on this matter.

Copying music is not piracy. It is not theft. The BBC even said so, in a grovelling apology after they aired a scandalous, unforgivable, stupid, retarded and evil attack on Bittorrent and were taken to task for it:

First though, an apology. File sharing is not theft. It has never been theft. Anyone who says it is theft is wrong and has unthinkingly absorbed too many Recording Industry Association of America press releases. We know that script line was wrong. It was a mistake. Were very, very sorry.

If copyright infringement was theft then Id be in jail every time I accidentally used football pix on Newsnight without putting Pictures from Sky Sport in the top left corner of the screen. And Im not. So it isnt.

No where near enough of an apology, but as far as the BBC goes, this is grovelling, first class.

He is expected to tell the Royal Television Societys Cambridge Convention that reasonable steps will make a significant difference, and also make the suggestion that if the industry does not help the Government it will legislate via the new Communication Bill. We intend to take measures to make it more and more difficult to access sites that deliberately facilitate infringement, misleading consumers and depriving creators of a fair reward for their creativity, Mr Hunt will say.

The world is changing. The number of people who know about crony capitalism, the abuses of the RIAA/MPAA and the rest is growing exponentially. Even the scumbag lying State shills at the BBC say that people like Hunt, “..(are) wrong and (have) unthinkingly absorbed too many Recording Industry Association of America press releases”.

Jeremy Hunt is on the wrong side of history, and he hasn’t got the brains to know it. If he does know that what he is saying is unfounded, illogical codswallop, then he is a coward for not stating the plain truth, which is that the internet has changed the way people consume media, these changes are benefits which will bring prosperity to everyone, and the old business models are dead as the Dodo.

The Government wants search engines to penalise website whose content is ruled unlawful. Less prominent results would have a direct effect on revenues from advertisers as well as sales.

If you removed all the links to any torrent site or site that provides links to other sites, what would happen is that someone would write an application that will absorb and re-distribute all those searches. It would spur the creation of a one stop place to find everything you need, and it could be designed in such a way that it can not be shut down. It would make the distribution of links more efficient, and this would mean more file sharing.

The internet sees Jeremy Hunt and his luddite ideas as damage and routes around him and them. Anything that is done to stop people communicating will cause more robust systems to be developed and deployed to bolster communication. We have seen this again and again. Napster was shut down and that caused gnutella to be developed. Then, the Bittorent protocol was developed as a direct answer to the problem of hosting files on central repositories. The same thing can be done with links. A distributed search engine, unstoppable, with no central point of attack will up the stakes and Jeremy Hunt would be the one that caused it to come into being. That is what is called an ‘own goal’ in the UK.

Mr Hunt will argue that online businesses deserve the same legal protection as physical ones. We do not allow certain products to be sold in the shops on the high street, nor do we allow shops to be set up purely to sell counterfeited products. Neither should we tolerate it online, he is set to say.

This is a fallacious, straw man argument. Physical goods are not the same as information and it comes right out of the MPAA script. When you copy a file or an idea, nothing is lost, and more to the point, Google does not facilitate copying, it merely points to resources that may or may not ‘infringe copyright’. There is no reason whatsoever to call upon business to take proactive measures against links that potentially point to items that are not even criminal in the first place.

He will add, however, The government has no business protecting old models or helping industries that have failed to move with the times. But those new models will never be able to prosper if they have to compete with free alternatives based on the illegal distribution of copyrighted material.

This is double talk. Government is protecting the old business models by insisting that there is such a thing as copyright. It is helping industries that have failed to move with the times, explicitly, the music and film industry. Secondly, Hunt says ‘free alternatives’ are bad; what if the new business model is the free model?. By saying that free is not acceptable, Hunt is picking winners, helping the dinosaur media and failing to move with the times. It is not the place of Jeremy Hunt or any public servant to determine which business models are and are not appropriate. Jeremy Hunt is talking nonsense on stilts.

Despite campaigns from internet freedom activists, the high court ruled in July, after a lengthy process, that the internet service provider BT should block a website that flagrantly infringed copyright, called Newzbin. Although the Internet Watch Foundation is able to use a sped-up legal process, it currently can only do so for sites relating to illegal online pornography. Google, however, claims that takedown requests from reliable copyright holders are dealt with in four hours. The government moving its pressure from ISPs to search engines marks a new approach to its multi-faceted attack on digital piracy.

They will fail.

Since the advent of modems running at 14.4k people have been sharing files, and it has grown year on year without fail every year. The mainstream media and the copyright monopoly have lost both the war and the argument. The movie studios still pull in hundreds of millions for their blockbusters, and so the much reported death of their industry has not materialised, as it never does whenever they whine that a new technology is going to wipe them out.

It is nothing short of absurd that Jeremy Hunt and his cohorts want to turn Britain into a leader of all things internets, but in the same breath, they do everything they can to cripple the companies that work with it. You cant have it both ways; either you want your East End Fantasy to take root or you do not. If you do, get out of the way, and let business flourish. If you do not, carry on as you are, making these ridiculous paid promotions for the copyright monopolists and watch everyone write you off as a potential place to locate.

In the past, anyone thinking about writing an innovative service, like a CD Ripping service, would have run a mile from the UK. Only now, as the CD is dying as a format will it become legal for a company like this to set up… or will it? Who knows? What is for sure is that if you plan on starting an internet business in the UK, you are taking a huge risk that Jeremy Hunt & Co. are going to suddenly, at the behest of your competitors, put you out of business either by directly legislating against you, or scaring investors away by giving a speech.

One thing is for certain; the tide is turning against Jeremy Hunt and all the glove puppets who sound suspiciously similar. What do I mean by that? Hmmmm, Which one is Jeremy Hunt, and which one is Andy Burnham? can you tell?:

Hunt or Burnham?:
“We must ensure that copyright delivers maximum benefit to performers and musicians. That’s the test of any model as we go forward”

Hunt or Burnham?:
“Let me be absolutely clear so there are no misconceptions about where the Government is on this. We share a real support for artists and musicians.”

Hunt or Burnham?:
“Music has been hit hard over the last ten years, and if we dont do something there is a real danger that parts of the music industry will be washed away.”

Hunt or Burnham?:
“Developments in communications have changed the music world and I think we are now at a time that calls for partnership between Government and the music business as a whole: one with rewards for both of us; one with rewards for society as a whole.”

Hunt or Burnham?:
“My job Governments job is to preserve the value in the system.”

Hunt or Burnham?:
“What do we need to do to help our businesses grow and evolve between now and 2025? Where can regulation help and where is it a barrier? What can we do collectively to enhance the whole UK market?”

Hunt or Burnham?:
“We have an extraordinarily strong and diverse media landscape in this country, combined with a remarkable wealth of talent in our creative industries.”

They are indistinguishable are they not?

Honestly, I dont care about what these people think; the only thing that matters is that they have the guns. As long as they have the monopoly on violence, they will be able to distort, destroy, corrupt and damage. If they did not have the monopoly on violence, Jeremy Hunt might be a school teacher somewhere, harmless, quiet and of no concern to anyone.

Thankfully, the market, the internet, and the people on it are more powerful than Jeremy Hunt. No matter what he says, no matter what he asks for, and no matter who he can bully into obeying his luddite wet dreams, the internet and the market will route around him and his disease and the spice will flow!

Refuting the attacks on Bitcoin’s design

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Some people believe that the design of Bitcoin is flawed, and that it cannot work. David Kramer is one of them and has made an interesting post over at Lew Rockwell, about Bitcoin. Lets take a look.

I’m sure by now many of you have heard about Bitcoin. The fact that it’s called “virtual currency” gives you an idea about its actual value as a real medium of exchange.

This isn’t true; the only thing that gives you an idea about its value as a medium of exchange is what you can exchange it for. Right now you can trade a bitcoin for 26.141 Federal Reserve Notes. This is the truth about what the value of a Bitcoin is right now.

While many people who are touting it on Facebook are enamored with the fact that it was voluntarily created by the marketplace (i.e., is not forced down our throats by a private central bank), I’m afraid that those people are losing sight of how a real medium of exchange arises in a free market.

Bitcoin was developed as a way to exchange between people in a cash like fashion at a distance, without a central clearing authority. It was created because there is a need for this service, which has been recognised since the days of Dr. David Chaum’s E-Cash.

The people who work on this project were not directed to by anyone, and no one told the man who made the breakthrough that this is what he should be doing. This is yet another example of free people solving problems for themselves, and that is a good thing.

We should point out that Satoshi Nakamoto could have patented this idea but choose not to; instead, he released his idea and the software he wrote to implement it as Open Source, so that everyone everywhere can benefit from his concept. This is a noble act, and it is proper that we recognise this.

A medium of exchange arises from something that had a material use/value in the market prior to becoming a medium of exchange, i.e., it was also a good being bartered for other goods and services. Over the centuries, gold and silver won out as the two most preferred mediums of exchangewith gold holding the number one position due to it being more scarce than silver.

You could argue that the electricity and the CPU cycles that are used to generate bitcoins had a use in the market prior to their use to create a Bitcoin, but we will leave that for today.

Over the centuries, gold and silver have been settled upon as the best medium of exchange by the market, and this is still true today.

Now fast forward to the twentieth century, which is happening right now. How can I transmit gold (or any thing that I and another person want to trade) without double spending, anonymously, to a person that is half way around the world, without a central clearing authority? Before Bitcoin, this was not possible, and now it is.

Bitcoin, whilst not conforming strictly to the definition of what money is, is a very useful tool to exchange value. It takes some understanding and knowledge of mathematics to grasp exactly how it works and why it is so brilliant, but even without that knowledge, it can still be used by everyone eventually.

Mr. Kramer can use email to send and receive messages without understanding SMTP or POP syntax. He can write blog posts without understanding HTTP requests or MYSQL, and most certainly he will be able to use credit cards and buy books from Amazon whilst his transaction is protected by SSL. None of these things, these very complicated things, need to be understood fully before you can grasp their importance. SSL, upon which the entire commerce infrastructure is built, is nothing like putting a paper document in an envelope to be mailed by the government monopoly postal system and yet, it is used every day to secure documents in transit. PGP and Public Key Cryptography is used every day to sign documents in a way that means they cannot be forged; signing a document with Public Key Cryptography is not the same as putting your ‘John Hancock’ on a piece of paper, but it is a quantum leap in a different direction that has uses way beyond what signing a piece of paper can do for you.

This is what Bitcoin is all about; it is a breakthrough in sending and receiving acknowledgement of ownership.

Anyone who scoffs at this is simply not seeing the big picture.

What was Bitcoin’s prior material use/value? Zero. It is just bits in a computer.

This is a straw man argument. David Kramer’s post, and the two links in his update to Murray Rothbard’s books (one of which I have read; ‘What has Government done to our money?‘) are just ‘bits in a computer’ and yet, these bits can be used to transform the thinking of men. Bitcoins when they are stored on a device, are represented by bits, but it is what those bits represent and their relationship to other bits on other people’s computers that is important. This line of Kramer’s shows that he really does not understand what computers are, how they work and why Bitcoin is a breakthrough.

And what’s with the “fixed” amount of Bitcoins? Who determined the “proper” amount? A computer programmer?

And why not a computer programmer? This is exactly the same asLacy Clay saying Thomas DiLorenzo cannot talk about economics ‘because he is an historian’. For what reason are computer programmers excluded from inventing something that has a potential use in economics? Or should this be left only to the high priests? This is not a serious argument against the design of Bitcoin. Clearly there needed to be an upper limit to the number of Bitcoins in circulation, otherwise it would not be useful as a way of transmitting ‘money’. The person who designed Bitcoin, a computer programmer, set the upper limit. If the market will not accept this limit, then the system will not be used. But I digress.

Data is infinitely copyable. There is no limit to the number of times data can be copied. This means that any token in a system of exchange can be copied at will by anyone with access to the system at any level. This is where the problem of double spending comes from, and part of the breakthrough in Bitcoin is the solution to this problem, which computer programmers have been searching for for decades.

When you have even a slight grasp of how data and computers work, and you understand that the double spending problem has been solved, your first reaction would be to gasp, as the enormity of what Bitcoin is dawns on you.

Only the free market can voluntarily determine how much of a real medium of exchange is needed in the marketplace over time.

This is true, but once again, this has nothing to do with Bitcoin. By releasing Bitcoins slowly over time, by the efforts of the people who use it, there can never be a flood of Bitcoins. Satoshi Nakamoto must have grasped on some level, if not entirely, that money is a commodity, which is why he designed Bitcoin to be mined in this way, instead of starting off with 21,000,000 coins in circulation all at once. All we know about his thinking is what we see in his software and in his original proposal. We have between now and 2142 to see what the market voluntarily determines how much of a real medium of exchange Bitcoin is, and if the number of bitcoins is too small or too big. Whatever the outcome, there is nothing stopping someone else with another system from supplanting or improving on Bitcoin, by whatever means they can come up with.

While the idea of attempting to get rid of the Bankster monopoly on creating money out of thin air is commendable, Bitcoin is also money created out of thin air. Bitcoin is just substituting one bogus medium of exchange for another.

Declaring Bitcoin to be ‘Just Another Bogus Medium of Exchange’ is not an argument and is clearly false. It is also not true that Bitcoins are created ‘out of thin air’. Bitcoin is new and unique, and that is a fact; even if you believe it to be bogus, you have to demonstrate why it is bogus.

If you want to refute Bitcoin (or anything for that matter) you have to address the facts about it. Here is an example of someone who has done precisely that.

Tav addresses how Bitcoin works, acknowledges its breakthrough, demonstrates an understanding of economics, identifies what he believes the specific flaws in Bitcoin are, and explains why he concludes it cannot work, clearly and with precision. Here is another critique and another by the same author.

If you want to contribute something meaningful and useful that is the way to do it. There are arguments swirling around the ‘hoarding problem’; it would be nice to read a good analysis of hoarding and how it applies to real money like gold and silver, and how those dynamics apply to Bitcoin. In any case, I don’t care much for people who refuse to think hard about subjects like Bitcoin; something that is voluntary, harmless, an exiting breakthrough and which has massive potential even if in this iteration, it fails.

We have seen the failure of other systems, like Chaumian E-Cash before. Each of these iterations causes analysis, innovation and new products to emerge. This is something to celebrate, to think hard about, to address with logic and facts and indeed, to even try out on your own computer so that you actually have a grasp of what is involved in it.

Finally, whatever happens with Bitcoin, the individual wins.

If Bitcoin becomes the de-facto way of spending money on the internet, displacing all other systems like Credit Cards and PayPal, the public wins, and the State loses. That is win.

If Bitcoin fails because the State outlaws it, hatred for the State increases. That is win.

If Bitcoin fails for economic reasons, it will not be tried again in this form and the lessons learned will be folded into the next iteration. That is win.

If Bitcoin fails for technical reasons, same again, the lessons learned will be used in the next iteration, which is win.

Whatever way you choose to look at it, Bitcoin is a good thing.

+++++++ UPDATE! +++++++

In a well considered article, which I linked to above, “BitCoins: All Buzz, No Substance” by Grant Babcock, the problems with Bitcoin as perceived by the author are addressed. In listing his objections to Bitcoin, he actually argues for it. Lets take a look.

A given goods exchange value has a tendency to snowball.

This is happening with Bitcoin right now.

If I believe that a larger number of people are willing to trade for a good, I am more willing to trade for that good myself.

This is happening right now with Bitcoin.

Eventually, we expect a single good or a handful of goods to emerge as the predominant media of exchange; they are then called monies.

This may happen with Bitcoin on the internet. If enough people download the client and accept it, and websites use the simple tools needed to accept it, we can expect it to emerge as a form of money. Bitcoins, by Grant’s own reasoning, are no different to coconuts, feathers, tally sticks or cowrie shells.

Historically, goods such as cigarettes, precious metals, shells, and many others have emerged as monies.

And so why not digital certificates that cannot be forged or ‘printed’ (mined or generated) beyond a certain number (21,000,000)?

Peoples willingness to treat an item as money is based on experience. They forecast that a good will be accepted in trade tomorrow because it was accepted in trade the day before and the day before that.

And so, if enough people accept Bitcoins, they will treat it as money de-facto by this definition.

If we follow this chain back in time, eventually we arrive at a point where the commodity is has not yet been used as a medium of exchange and is only wanted for its use value.

This is true of Bitcoins; digital certificates and signatures have been around for many years; they were never before thought of as money in and of themselves (though you can buy certificates for money; ask Mark Shuttleworth about how he became a billionaire by selling ‘just bits on a computer’).

The principle that the value of a currency can be traced back to a time when it was not yet a currency but just a commodity like any other is called the regression theorem, and interested parties can read more about it in Human Action Ch 17 4.

If you do not like tracing Bitcoins back to digital certificates, you could trace them back to the electricity used to make them. Or is electricity not a commodity because it is not physical? It is intangible, but is transmissible… hmmmm!

Typically once a commodity becomes a money, a variety of certification agencies will emerge.

Bitcoin has this, of course, in the form of its decentralized P2P clients. That is the breakthrough; no centralised certification agency.

Suppose for example that our money is gold examples of certification might be an imprint on a gold coin stating its weight and where it was minted, or a piece of paper entitling the bearer to a certain amount of gold at a trusted repository.

A stamp on a bar of gold is meaningless, as we have seen with the tungsten centered fake gold bars. Bitcoin, in this respect, is superior to gold because each Bitcoin is absolutely certified.

This certification makes the commodity an even better money than it would have been without the certification. The certification is bundled with the commodity and traded, but is in principle distinct; the coin and the stamp in the coin are different things.

Indeed. As you can see, all the arguments presented here for gold as money, apply to Bitcoins as money.

Just as the computers and the internet changed the way letters and books are made and distributed and read, money is being changed in the same way.

This means that if you want to read a physical book, you still have to go out an buy one, or have it posted to you. If you want money in the real world, you should use gold and silver coins only.

If you want to read a book on your iPad, you get a PDF copy from somewhere on the internet, and then read it on your device. This does not mean that ‘PDFs are not books’ and no one with any sense says this. PDFs are for e-readers. That is their nature, its what they are for and the medium where they make sense is the computer.

If you want to send money to your cousin in Jodhpur, you take your gold coins to a shop in Manchester, turn them into Bitcoins and then send them. Your cousin can then turn them back into gold, or he can buy goods and services with them on the internet. Bitcoins are to money as PDFs are to books. Its not hard to understand, and the wow factor comes in when you understand that whilst PDFs can be copied ‘double spent’ ad infinitum, Bitcoins cannot, even though they are both digital.

That is simply incredible and its why everyone is so exited about them. Add to the mix the anonymity, the lack of central authority, the transparency in both the client software and the network, and you begin to see just what a revolution this is any why the word ‘revolution’ is appropriate.

Finally read this excellent analysis of gold vs Bitcoin by Anthony Freeman.

Chinese translation of this article.

Automatic Touch

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Well, Charles, it certainly is a very personal expression

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Fables of Faubus, from this concert. Thank you.

London Pirates Archive

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

As often happens with ‘teh internets’ you get to something wonderful via a circuitous route.

I checked the logs to see who was linking to us, and found that someone has transmitted the Monster Music shows on the radio. In their announcement post there was a link to London Pirates a website documenting the London Pirate radio scene from 1989 to 2002.

They have some wonderful photos, and more importantly, they have some off air recordings:

Dream FM UK Pirate Radio 1994 – Side A by user9315653

Dream FM UK Pirate Radio 1994 – Side B by user9315653

The second one is a ‘Happy Hardcore’ set, of the kind you used to hear… in 1994.

It still sounds outrageous, insane, ridiculous, hilarious, intense, far out, ‘mad’… and completely original, unique, imaginative, rule breaking, off the charts… Its worth playing these files in a way that re-creates the bass. Really.

Hans Reichel’s Daxo Website… Closed!

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

If its gone for good, that’s bad.

It’s back up, he backed down?!

The Antimix Modern Disease Mixtape is back again!

Friday, September 24th, 2010

The Antimix Modern Disease Mixtape #7

[Download Podcast]

Snarfled from


Monday, September 6th, 2010

It's so sad, you go mad, we're on the cover

The Andromeda Strain Original Soundtrack

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

‘The Andromeda Strain’, a must see film had its soundtrack released in this packaging:

Not only did you get the original sound with the vinyl, but the package is absolutely wonderful; a perfect match for the biology of the bioweapon ‘Andromeda’:

All the iTunes, FLACs and MP3s in the world will never replace the intimacy of this; a physical object, designed by man, in your hands, with its smell, its feel and its reality.



Sunday, July 18th, 2010

The Price is Right

Friday, June 25th, 2010

The Prices, the prizes, the colors (yes ‘colors’)…. unbelievable.

After reading “Everything you love comes from capitalism” the character of and feeling you get from The Price is Right changes dramatically. Any apprehension you may have had about it from decades of anti-capitalist brainwashing is blown away, and you see that show for what it really was; an incredible exposition of the abundance produced by the free market, even as practiced under the severe duress of the state.

Watch it for yourself:

And the music is to die for.


Via Acromyrmex Iohannes

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010