Prior to starting his own company in 1961, Frank Mason worked for an engineering
division of Aladdin Industries Inc. 1 of Nashville (Tennessee, US),
where he (co)developed electronic parts for radio and television receivers,
such as wide-band and multi-band VHF and UHF tuners,
that were licenced to manufacturers of domestic equipment.
Between 1954 and 1962 no less than 14 patents for such devices
were (co)registered in his name, and it seems fair to assume that this
is where Mason developed his knownledge about very high
frequency receivers and tuners.
After he founded his own company, on 20 November 1961, Mason started the
development of a TSCM receiver,
or bug-sweeper as it was called
at the time, for the US Army. The receiver was named A-1
and was released during the course of 1962. An unknown number of these
receivers were built exclusively for the US Army, but so far nobody
has ever reported having seen one .
was followed in 1964 by the A-2,
of which a total of 800 units 2 were build, spread over 16 years at a
rate of one unit per week .
The A-2 was supplied in a leather case and came
with a range of pluggable tuners. It was sold in 1966 at a unit price
of US$ 5000 but by the time it was taken out of production in 1990,
the price had nearly tripled to a staggering US$ 14,950.
The image on the right shows the bare A-2 receiver, with a CRT display
unit and the yellow-coded 70-295 kHz tuner.
It was also available as the A-2CS
all-in-one portable case variant.
Despite the success and the long lifespan of the A-2,
its successor, the A-3
was introduced in 1971. The A-3 was also supplied in an unobtrusive
leather carrying case, but unlike the modular A-2 it was an all-in one unit,
making it faster in operation and providing easier maintenance.
was for many years the receiver-of-choice of most
US Government agencies, and also of the law enforcement and
intelligence agencies of many European countries, such as
The Netherlands and West Germany (BRD).
In 1980, the range was extended with the introduction of the
Mini Probe Receiver MPR-1,
the first truely portable TSCM receiver.
The slimline MPR-1 receiver could be expanded with a similar size
display unit that had a built-in green phosphor CRT screen.
The complete set, with display unit, is shown in the image on the right.
The MPR-1 was followed by the rare MPR-3,
the even rarer MPR-4
and finally by the US$ 21,000 MPR-5,
which could be expanded by an optional frequency counter with LCD readout.
The MPR-5 was sometimes used as a complementary tool
in combination with the A-3B suitcase receiver.
In 1986, alongside the MPR-5, Mason introduced the first programmable
audio countermeasures receiver, the PACMR-1,
which offered digital tuning over the entire
2 kHz - 10 GHz frequency range and came with a hi-res LCD screen,
a 6" CRT scope, a 3½" floppy disc drive and a printer.
With a price tag of US$ 80,000, the PACMR-1 was typically
aimed at the US Goverment/Army.
Apart from the TSCM receivers, Mason also developed a series of
telephone analyzers, such as the TT-4
and TT-6, that were used to detect
bugs and wire tapping on analogue phone lines.
Despite the demise of Mason Engineering Inc. in the early 1990s (see below)
and the death of Frank Mason several years later, much of the equipment had
an extremely long lifespan and was used by a variety of sweep teams
well into the 2000s, in some cases even as late as 2010.
In the early 1990's, after trying to bribe West German Goverment
the tide turned against Mason, and both the company
and Frank Mason himself were prosecuted for breaking the
Mason had alledgedly tried to bribe the officials
in an attempt to win a large contract with the
West German Military Intelligence Service MAD 3,
which was reported to the US Government .
After a high-profile court case, in which Mason pleaded guilty,
both the company and its sole share holder were convicted to a US$ 75,000
fine and five years probation.
Furthermore they had to restitute US$ 160,000 to the West German Government ,
for which the necessary funds were not available.
Shortly afterwards, Mason Engineering Inc. went under and was finally dissolved.
Despite all this, Frank Mason should be considered one of the pioneers of
the TSCM world and his receivers are beautiful examples of clever
engineering; way ahead of their time.
According to a former Mason employee
, most of the
design and engineering work was carried out by Mason himself,
and all electronic and mechanical parts were built in-house at the Fairfield factory.
➤ Mason products on this website
Aladdin Industries was a well-established US corporation that developed
the Aladdin non-smoking kerosine lamp (1912), but became particularly known
for their metal lunch boxes (1950-1986). Apart from this, the company also
had an engineering and patent licencing division, that developed many critical
parts for the production of radio and television sets and other domestic
According to  a total of 800 units were built, but according to
 the total amount was 1800 units.
MAD = Militärischer Abschirmdienst (West German Military
- US Patent 2,826,698, Tuner
Francis G. Mason. Filed 20 December 1954. 1
- US Patent 2,853,882, Fine-tuning mechanism
Francis G. Mason. Filed 26 September 1957. 1
- US Patent 2,868,984, Capacitive contactor tuner for very high radio and television frequencies
Louis E. Coutermash and Francis G. Mason. Filed 28 February 1955. 1
- US Patent 2,883,864, Cam drive for tuners
Francis G. Mason. Filed 278 March 1957. 1
- US Patent 2,942,333, Method of a making a slug tuner
Francis G. Mason. Filed 26 April 1955. 1
- US Patent 2,925,495, Tuner with primary coil on moving sleeve
Francis G. Mason and Harold T. Lyman. Filed: 6 January 1958. 1
- US Patent 2,972,049, Changeover switch arrangement for VHF-UHF tuner
Francis G. Mason. Filed 17 February 1959. 1
- US Patent 2,979,616, Radio frequency tuners
Francis G. Mason. Filed 20 August 1957. 1
- US Patent 2,980,796, Radio frequency tuner
Francis G. Mason. Filed 18 December 1957. 1
- US Patent 2,999,156, Radio frequency tuners having variable tracking and coupling means
Francis G. Mason and Harold T. Lyman. Filed 14 January 1959. 1
- US Patent 3,044,032, Contacting type drum for high radio frequencies
Francis G. Mason. Filed 11 October 1958. 1
- US Patent 3,156,884, Ultra high frequency tuner having rectilinearly sliding plates providing variable inductance and capacitance
Harold T. Lyman, Francis G. Mason and Jesse C. Jaqua. Filed 30 April 1962. 1
- US Patent 3,181,093, Cavity resonator with variable tuning
Francis G. Mason. Filed 6 October 1961. 1
- US Patent 3,204,208, Tuner driving mechanism
Harold T. Lyman, Francis G. Mason and Frederick D. Bogardus. Filed 12 October 1961. 1
Filed on behalf of Aladdin Industries Inc., Nasville (Tennisee, US).
- Alison L. Oswald, Aladdin Industries Inc. Records, 1889-2003
Revised 3 October 2007. Retrieved February 2016.
- Kevin D. Murray, Mason Enigineering Model A-2CS, etc.
Forum discussion on spybusters.com. 16 Jan 2005.
- Granite Island Group, Used equipment price index list
Retrieved January 2009.
- USA, Department of Justice, Int'l Agreements Relating to Bribery of Foreign Officials
Website. Retrieved June 2009.
- United State District Court (New Haven), US v. F.G. Mason Engineering Inc.
Charges against Mason. No. B-90-29. 25 June 1990.
- United States vs. F.G. Mason Engineering Inc. and Frank G. Mason
Mason found guilty of violating the FCPA.
US v. F.G. Mason Eng'g Inc., No. B-90-29 (D. Conn. 1990). p. B-14.
- Personal correspondence with a former Mason employee
Crypto Museum, January 2009.
- United States vs. F.G. Mason Engineering Inc., et al, Related enforcement actions
Court Docket Number: 90-CR-029. Filed 25 June 1990.
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