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).
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
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.
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).
Literally translated from German: manual fast keyer.
OTS = Operative Technische Sektor (Operational Technical Division).
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.
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.
- Crypto Museum, DDR Type 2 spy radio set
- Louis Meulstee, Wireless for the Warrior, volume 4
ISBN 0952063-36-0, September 2004
- Louis Meulstee, Handschnellgeber
Supplement Chapter 98, March 2016.
- Detlev Vreisleben, personal correspondence
June — December 2018.
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© Crypto Museum. Created: Friday 07 December 2018. Last changed: Saturday, 08 December 2018 - 15:19 CET.