Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Spy-Tech Mondays

Kristie Macrakis

seduced-by-secrets.jpgIt’s that time again. Kristie Macrakis, author of Seduced by Secrets, unveils some more Stasi spy gadgetry.

The Stasi had a way about them. They loved their toys. As Macrakis argues, this obsession was part of their own undoing — rather than performing their duties as an intelligence agency, they focused on hoarding secrets and spy-gear.

This week:

Too bad they don’t conceal the harmful effects of smoking!

ashtrayclosed.jpgDuring the Cold War a lot of spy paraphernalia was related to smoking. When I visited Mr. Regenhardt at the Criminal Evidence Collection, he handed me this ashtray and told me to open it. I twisted and turned and nothing happened. Feeling foolish I handed it back to him and, like a wizard, he took out a pin and pricked a hole and the ashtray popped open to reveal this next image:

…the open ashtray with a Minox camera inside.

Why, what do we have here, Herr Doktor?
Here’s another number, well several numbers in fact. This desktop lighter comes apart, concealing a cypher.

When you translate the cypher, it says “Drink more Ovaltine.”

Come back next Monday for more Stasi gizmos, assuming my computer isn’t wiped clean by rogue agents.

About The Author

Kristie Macrakis

Kristie Macrakis is the author of Seduced by Secrets: Inside the Stasi's Spy-Tech World (2008). She is Professor of the History of Science at Georgia Tech. She spent 2007–08 at H...

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