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PS-006
Ballpoint bug

The PS-006 was a tiny little radio bug that was hidden inside a normal ballpoint. It was built during the 1980s and was sold by spy/security shops such as the Spy Shop in Amsterdam (Netherlands). As the device was illegal (i.e. it contained a transmitter), it was generally sold 'under the counter' or at airports, such as Schiphol, where it was advertised as 'Export only'.
 
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.
  
Two button-type batteries (3V) are used to power the ballpoint bug

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.

A small 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 25 metres. The intercepting party (the receiver) therefore had to be at close proximity, e.g. in an adjacent room.
 
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

 
References
  1. Spy Shop Amsterdam, Ballpoint bug
    Instruction leaflet (Dutch). Date unknown. Spy-Shop cat.nr. PS-006.

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