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Protona Minifon Special
Miniature wire recorder
The Minfon Special was a miniature wire recorder built by Protona GmbH in Germany. It was introduced in 1961, at the height of the Cold War, and was intended for use by the secret services. The design is a combination of both its predecessors: the P-55 and the earlier Attaché.
Like the first two Protona recorders, the Mi-51 and the P-55, the Special uses a very thin wire to record its audio, which is rather strange, considering the fact that with the introduction of the earlier Minifon Attaché Protona had already made the move to tape-based systems.

The reason for this is simple: although tape-based systems were increasingly becoming popular, they were limited by their recording capacity. The 2-speed Minifon Special promises 2.5 or 5 hours of uninterrupted recording, which is something a tape-based device can't.
Controlling the Minifon Special whilst inside the leather case

Although the Special uses magnetic wire and is largely based on the design of the P-55, it is an all-transistor device just like the new Minifon Attaché. With its dimensions of 17 x 10 x 4 cm, its a tiny little bit smaller than the P55. It weight a bit more though: 800g instead of 790g for the P55. The image above, shows the Special in a typical Protona leather carrying case. The case also has a small pocket to store some accessories, such as the microphone or an ear piece.

It was powered by a single battery and allowed a voltage range of 6-12V. Like the other Minifon recorders, it could also be powered by an external power supply unit.
The leather storage/carrying case Controlling the Minifon Special whilst inside the leather case Taking the Minifon Special out of the leather case Minifon Special The controls and connections of the Minifon Special Close-up of the wire spools. At the back the battery. Close-up of a spool The Minifon Special was powered by a single battery as the machine was fully transistorized.

For the Minifon Special, a wide range of add-ons was available, just like for the other Minifon models. The connections at the front of the machine are different though, so that accessories had to be ordered specifically for the Special.
As the Special was intended for use by the secret services, the most interesting accessories are the cloth holster, that allowed the recorder to be hidden under a suit, and the famous wrist-watch microphone.

The holster was a simple cloth bag that could be carried under a person's arm, like the holster of a weapon. It was then strapped against the body and a disguised microphone would be used to record a conversation inconspiciously. As a microphone, one would use the standard one, the fountain pen, or the wrist-watch.
Minifon in holster

The 5th image below shows the wrist-watch microphone that was available for the Minifon Special. Note that the connector has changed since the Mi-51 and the P-55. Instead of the 4 mm jack, the Special has a 9-way accessory socket at the front right. This connector was used for many of the add-ons, including headphones and a variety of different microphones. The connector is similar (but not identical) to the later DIN-style connectors. Most of the accessories of the Minifon Attaché are suitable for the Special.
This holster allowed the Minifon to be carried under the clothing Minifon in holster Minifon Special in holster Minifon Special in holster The 7-pin connector is clearly visible Close-up of the microphone that was disguised as a typical watch This is how the watch-microphone was carried on the wrist Close-up of the watch-microphone on the wrist

  1. Roland Schellin, Spion in der Tasche
    Detailed history of Protona and the Minifon recorders
    ISBN: 3-936012-00-8 (German)

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