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TM-109   PS-006
Ballpoint bug

TM-109 was a subminiature covert listening device (bug) disguised as a ballpoint, supplied in the early 1970s by TMS in Köln (Germany) and, under different names, by several spy and security shops in Europe, including the PSS Spy Shop in Amsterdam (Netherlands), where it was known as PS-006. As the device was illegal, it was generally sold 'under the counter' and at airports, clearly marked 'for export only'. During the Cold War it was known by the MfS (Stasi) as TRM-109 [B]. 1

The PS-006 ballpoint bug consists of a simple free-running FM transmitter that operates at a frequency between 70 and 92 MHz. It is powered by two small button-type batteries (3V) and has a bandwidth of approx. 150 kHz. A standard (analogue) FM receiver (87-108 MHz) was used for reception. The transmitter is small enough not to disturb normal operation of the pen; it can be used for normal writing as well.

The version shown here was built for the special 130-150 MHz range, for which a professional communications intercept receiver was needed.
  

As the transmitter is free-running (i.e. not crystal-based) it is rather sensitive to the so-called hand-effect. As a result, the frequency may vary when the device is carried close to the body. Luckly, the FM band was not as populated with commercial stations in the 1980s as it is today, making it relatively easy to 'follow' the drifting transmitter on a domestic receiver.

Limitations
A short wire, hidden inside the pen, acts as the antenna. Due to the limited voltage (3V) and the way the bug is constructed, the operational range is limited to approximately 30 metres. The intercepting party (the receiver) therefore had to be in the immediate vicinity, e.g. in an adjacent room. In addition, the the button cells will not last very long once the transmitter is activated.

In practice this was not a problem. The person carrying the pen would leave it behind in a room after, say, a meeting. Once outside, he could then hear what the other participants had so say about him. After a few hours the batteries would be exhausted and the bug would live on as a regular pen. It would probably be discarded after a while without ever exposing the bug.

  1. Note that this product was sold by many spy & sucurity shops, under different model numbers.

Box with ballpoint bug (not the red label indicating a special frequency range)
Ballpoint bug packed with 2 button-type batteries inside a box
Close-up of ballpoint bug and batteries
Dismounted ballpoint bug
Dismounted ballpoint bug
Two button-type batteries (3V) are used to power the ballpoint bug
Using the ballpoint bug as a real pen
Close-up of the tip of the pen
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Box with ballpoint bug (not the red label indicating a special frequency range)
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Ballpoint bug packed with 2 button-type batteries inside a box
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Close-up of ballpoint bug and batteries
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Dismounted ballpoint bug
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Dismounted ballpoint bug
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Two button-type batteries (3V) are used to power the ballpoint bug
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Using the ballpoint bug as a real pen
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Close-up of the tip of the pen

Documentation
  1. TMS 'electronics' catalogue
    Date unknown, but probably early 1972/73. 1

  2. Drahtloses FM-Subminiatur-Mikrofon TRM 109
    MfS, HA-III, Nr. 10592, page A1.6. 2
  1. Document kindly supplied by Detlev Vreisleben [2].
  2. Document obtained from BStU [3].

References
  1. Spy Shop Amsterdam, PSS-006, ballpoint transmitter
    Instruction leaflet (Dutch). Date unknown. Spy-Shop cat.nr. PS-006.

  2. Detlev Vreisleben, TMS electronic catalogue
    Received May 2019.

  3. Bundesbeauftragte für die Stasi-Unterlagen (BStU) 1
    Federal Commissioner for the Stasi-Records.
  1. Full name: Bundesbeauftragte für die Unterlagen des Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemaligen Deutschen Demokratischen Republik (DDR) — Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) — officially abbreviated to BStU.

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Crypto Museum. Created: Monday 29 April 2013. Last changed: Wednesday, 06 December 2023 - 07:48 CET.
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