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Device 32620   Stimme
Speech/morse generator - under construction

Gerät 32620 (Device 32620) was an digital speech generator, developed in the early 1980s by the Institut für Kosmosforschung 1 (Space Research Institute) in the former DDR (East Germany) and manfactured at the ZWG 2 in Berlin. The device was the successor to the analogue device known as Schnatterinchen and was used by the East German Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (MfS) — also known as the Stasi — for sending coded messages to agents in hostile countries, via the mysterious numbers stations that used to be operated on the short wave (SW) radio bands.

The device measures xx x xx x xx cm and weights approx. xx kg. It has a sloped front panel that holds all controls, an LED display and a 5-level tape reader. Although it can be operated manually, it was generally driven by a 5-level punched paper tape that contained the actual message.

A message tape was inserted into the paper tape reader at the left of the control panel, and could be stored in the the internal battery-backed CMOS RAM, before being transmitted either in morse code or as spoken text by a human voice.
  
Device 32620

Device 32620 was developed in the early 1980s, to replace the ageing analogue tape-based Schnatterinchen (cacklerina) devices. It was used by the MfS 3 department HV A (Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung) for passing messages — generally encrypted with the unbreakable One-Time Pad — to agents operating in Western countries. It was also used by the intelligence services of other Warsaw Pact countries, including the Soviet Union (USSR), and by friendly nations like Cuba.

It is currently unknown how many 32620 device were made, but it is likely that the initial batch in ~1980 consisted of around 50 devices, with regular new production batches in later years. The device shown above has model number 32620.2 and serial number 8704. It was manufactured in February 1987. In 1989, 6 more units were ordered by the HV A (8/A) and 27 for the IZSU 4 , of which 15 were to be delivered in January 1990 and the remaining 12 in December 1990 [3].

  1. Part of the Akademie der Wissenschaften der DDR (East German Science Academy).
  2. ZWG = Zentrum für wissenschaflichen Gerätebau (Centre for Scientific Manufacturing).
  3. MfS = Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (Ministry for State Security), also known as Stasi.  More
  4. ISZU = Internationale Zusammenarbeit Sowjetunion (International Cooperation Soviet Union).

Device 32620 Device 32620 Front panel Rear panel Slot for voice cards Model and serial number printed inside the lid
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Device 32620
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Device 32620
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Front panel
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Rear panel
A
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Slot for voice cards
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Model and serial number printed inside the lid

Controls
...

Female voice
From 1961 onwards, the woman 1 shown in the image below, was one of the female speakers of the East German numbers stations. Like most of the speakers, she was living with her family on the compound of Funkobject 2 Kesselberg. Initially the numerical messages were read live in one of the small studios in the basement of the Kesselberg site, where they were recorded on tape.

The tapes were then played back at specific times via a strong short wave (SW) transmitter with an output power between 10 and 100 kW.

In 1963/1964, whilst she was was on leave to give birth to a child, she was asked to lend her voice to the new Schnatterinchen device, that had just been developed. In the small studio in the basement, each word had to be fitted onto a piece of audio tape that was just 12-15 cm long.

According to her own account [4], the words Achtung (Attention) and Sieben (Seven) were the most difficult to record. Furthermore, the words had to be pronounced in such a way that they could be discriminated unambiguously through a noisy narrowband short wave radio channel. The pre-recorded tape segments were later mounted onto the discs of the Schnatterinchen machine.

Some time later she was also asked to lend here voice to the Spanish version of the machine, which was subsequently recorded in the studio of the DDR broadcasting service 3 in Berlin. In the early 1980s, the same voice was digitized for use in the digital Device 32620 featured here.
  

For the lady in the picture, this meant the end of an era, but in the following years, she frequently tuned in to the Stasi frequencies on the short wave radio band, to verify that here voice was still being used. In January 2010, she wrote a letter in which she explained here role as the voice [4].

 Read the full letter

  1. The name of the female speaker is currently unknown.
  2. Literally translated 'Radio Object' - here used to identify a site.
  3. Rundfunkhaus der DDR, Nalepastraße, Berlin (East Germany).

Predecessor   Schnatterinchen
Device 32620 was the successor to an analogue machine known as Schnatterinchen (Cacklerina) that was developed in 1964/1965 and used short pieces of audio tape mounted on circular discs as the storage medium.

 More information
  
Drum with 13 discs

YouTube
Quite a bit of footage that shows the 32620 in action, can be found on YouTube, most of which was published by Peter Staal in The Netherlands [5] and were recorded at the home of German collector Detlev Vreisleben in 2010 [2]. They show one or more machines in action and demonstrate how to alter the language. Below are some examples.

Demonstration of a 32620 device by Jorg Drobick [6].


Choir of 32620 machines. © Copyright Peter Staal [5].


Swapping of the PCBs of a 32620 device. © Copyright Peter Staal [4].


Interior
...

Connections
All connections of the 32620 are located at the rear panel. There are sockets for connection of an external speaker, the transmission line (Leitung) and ... There is also an expansion socket (Bu1) for connection of a remote control unit. Below is the pinout of the sockets, as seen when looking into the sockets from the rear of the device.

LINE output
  1. ?
  2. ?
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. ?
DATA input
  1. ?
  2. ?
  3. ?
  4. ?
  5. ?
  6. ?
Expansion   Bu 1
  • ...
Names
Although the device was officially designated 32620, it was known by its users under various names, the most common of which are listed below.

  • Gerät 32620
    Device 32620
  • Stimme
    Voice
  • Sprach-Morse-Generator
    Speech-Morse-Generator
  • Eiserne Frau
    Iron lady
  • Kluge Frau
    Clever lady
  • Schlaue Frau
    Smart lady
Serial numbers
Below is an non-exhaustive list of model and serial numbers of 32620 devices that may help to establish how many units were manufactured. It is likely that the first two digits of the serial number represent the year of manufacturing. If you know of any devices that are not listed here, please let us know.

  • 3 2620
    8501
    November 1985
  • 3 2620
    8515
    November 1985
  • 3 2620.2
    8704
    February 1987
Audio samples

Download
German EPROMs
Spanish EPROMs
References
  1. Anonymous, Device 32620 - THANKS !
    Crypto Museum, July 2017.

  2. Detlev Vreisleben, Personal correspondence
    July 2017.

  3. Operativ-Technische Sektor, Abteilung 33, Leistungsplan 1990 fuer die KST: 3360
    VVS B77-89, 14 October 1989. Pages 1 and 7. 1

  4. Anonymous, Letter from female East-German numbers speaker
    30 January 2010.

  5. Peter Staal, YouTube channel
    Retrieved July 2017.

  6. Jorg Drobick, YouTube channel
    Retrieved July 2017.
  1. Document from BStU archives, kindly supplied by Detlev Vreisleben [2].

Further information
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Crypto Museum. Created: Wednesday 19 July 2017. Last changed: Monday, 24 July 2017 - 16:27 CET.
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