Click for homepage
Burst
DDR
Stasi
  
HSG
Handschnellgeber - burst keyer

Handschnellgeber (HSG) 1 was a manually operated high-speed morse (burst) keyer, developed in the late 1950s in the former DDR (East-Germany), by the OTS 2 of the repressive Ministerium für Staats­sicher­heit (MfS), also known as the Stasi. It uses ¼" magnetic audio tape as a medium and was used with several East-German spy radio sets. Messages are prepared with the Stanze. It was also used with the SE-25 spy radio set, as a backup in case the automatic Geber E or E1 failed.

The device is built to the side of a 6.2 mm thick plexiglass panel that is mounted onto a 80 x 22 mm aluminium base plate. At the right is a fixed spool that acts as the pickup reel. To its left is a stamp-like sensing switch of which the contacts are available on a two-pin socket at the rear.

To the left of the switch, is a retractable arm that is used to hold the supply reel with the tape that contains the message as a series of short and long holes, representing characters of the morse code alphabet. The presence of a hole, engages the sensing switch (which keys the transmitter).
  
East-German Handschnellgeber (manual fast keyer)

When sending a message, the plain text is first translated into numbers using a predetermined conversion scheme. The numbers are then encrypted with a so-called One-Time Pad (OTP), after which they are stored on a regular ¼" magnetic (audio) tape by means of the Stanze (puncher).

Once the message is complete, it is wound onto an empty reel, which is installed on the movable arm of the Handschnellgeber. The tape is then guided past the sensing switch, onto the pickup reel. Next, the socket at the rear of the chassis, is connected to the key input of the transmitter.

A small plexiglass hand-crank – usually stowed inside the metal cover of the keyer – is installed in a hole near the circumference of the pickup reel. By rotating the pickup reel clockwise at a constant speed, the tape moves from the supply reel past the sensing switch onto the pickup reel.
  
Mini-scrank stowed in a holder inside the cover

Each time the holes in the tape pass the sensing switch, its contacts are closed and the connected transmitter is enabled. As the holes in the tape represent numbers in morse code, this causes the message to be transmitted in morse at high speed. Between 1958 and 1962, the Stasi deployed the Handschnellgeber — along with the complementary Stanze — with a series of spy radio sets, such as the DDR Type 2. A variant was later embedded with the Type 3 spy radio set. It was also supplied as a backup device with the later SE-25 spy radio station (the DDR copy of the SP-15).

  1. Literally translated from German: manual fast keyer.
  2. OTS = Operative Technische Sektor (Operational Technical Division).

Handschnellgeber in metal storage box Handschnellgeber with metal storage box Mini cranks stowed in the storage box Mini-crank Handschnellgeber with left arm in storage position East-German Handschnellgeber (manual fast keyer) Burst keyer, frontal view Puncher (left) and keyer (right)
A
×
A
1 / 8
Handschnellgeber in metal storage box
A
2 / 8
Handschnellgeber with metal storage box
A
3 / 8
Mini cranks stowed in the storage box
A
4 / 8
Mini-crank
A
5 / 8
Handschnellgeber with left arm in storage position
A
6 / 8
East-German Handschnellgeber (manual fast keyer)
A
7 / 8
Burst keyer, frontal view
A
8 / 8
Puncher (left) and keyer (right)

Features
The diagram below gives an overview of the features of the Handschnellgeber, as seen from the front. At the left is the supply reel that holds the punched tape with the message. It is installed on the retractable arm and is held in place by means of a knurled nut at the centre. From the supply reel, the tape is passed via the tape guides over the sensing switch, onto the pickup reel at the right. A miniature hand crank is installed in a hole at the circumference of the pickup reel.


A thin steel sloped pin in the lower part of the device forms one half of the sensing switch. The other half consists of a spring-loaded pressure roller. The contacts of the sensing switch are available on two busses at the rear. Before loading a tape, the pressure roller has to be placed in the parking position. This is done by raising the pressure roller parking knob at the top, and rotating it clockwise. The tape way is now free and the tape can be guided through the switch.

The pressure roller should now be released again, so that it pushes the tape against the contact pin in the power part. After connecting the keyer to a transmitter (using the contacts at the rear), the tape should be pulled through the sensing switch, by turning the hand crank clockwise at a constant speed. Each time a hole in the tape is encountered, the sloped pin in the lower part will make contact with the pressure roller and, hence, cause a carrier to be sent by the transmitter.

Steel contact pin at the centre of the tape way Contact busses are the rear (to transmitter) Pulling up the pressure roller to place it in the parking position Pressure roller engaged Pressure roller in parking position Message tape guided through the sensing switch Tape guided through the switch Turn the pickup reel clockwise at a constant speed
B
×
B
1 / 8
Steel contact pin at the centre of the tape way
B
2 / 8
Contact busses are the rear (to transmitter)
B
3 / 8
Pulling up the pressure roller to place it in the parking position
B
4 / 8
Pressure roller engaged
B
5 / 8
Pressure roller in parking position
B
6 / 8
Message tape guided through the sensing switch
B
7 / 8
Tape guided through the switch
B
8 / 8
Turn the pickup reel clockwise at a constant speed

Documentation
  1. Handschnellgeber, excerpt from SE-25 manual
    Date unknown. Photographed October 2005 at BKA by Detlev Vreisleben [4].
References
  1. Crypto Museum, DDR Type 2 spy radio set
    December 2018.

  2. Louis Meulstee, Wireless for the Warrior, volume 4
    ISBN 0952063-36-0, September 2004

  3. Louis Meulstee, Handschnellgeber
    Supplement Chapter 98, March 2016.

  4. Detlev Vreisleben, personal correspondence
    June — December 2018.
Further information
Any links shown in red are currently unavailable. If you like the information on this website, why not make a donation?
© Crypto Museum. Created: Friday 07 December 2018. Last changed: Saturday, 08 December 2018 - 14:19 CET.
Click for homepage