The Minifon P 55
was a minature wire recorder
for audio signals (voice),
developed and built by Protona GmbH in Hamburg (Germany).
It was introduced in 1955 as the successor to the Mi-51.
Like the Mi-51, it was built with miniature valves (tubes)
and recorded sound on a very thin wire.
The image on the right shows the controls of the P-55, which is
housed in a metal enclosure. The machine is completely
different from the Mi-51, but it includes
a lot of experience and feedback gained from the Mi-51.
In other words: without the Mi-51, the
P-55 could not have existed.
All controls and connections are at the front of the machine.
There are four large control push-buttons at the centre and a volume
adjustment at the left.
At the bottom left is a 3-pin socket for connection of the power
suply unit (PSU). At the bottom right is the input/output socket.
One of the most famous users of the P-55 was the head of the
German intelligence service OG, Reinhard Gehlen. During WWII,
Wehrmacht major Gehlen had been head of the German military
intelligence in the Eastern section. After the war, the Americans had
put him in charge of a new German intelligence service that carried
his name: Organisation Gehlen (OG).
In 1955, the OG ordered more than 80 P-55 units, that were used for
covert recording of conversations, even by Reinhard Gehlen himself.
In 1956, the OG was renamed to
The P-55 came five years after the first Minifon Mi-51, at a time
when the company was going through some bad weather and customers didn't expect much anymore.
The P-55 was presented to a small selected audience, just a day before the
Hannover Messe (Hannover Fair) of 1955. It was received well and would
be Protona's mainstream product for the next five years .
It wasn't cheap however: at the introduction,
the standard model (S) costed DM 925
and the long-play version (L) DM 985 .
In the early 1960s, the P-55 was replaced by the
and the Special.
Over 20 different accessories were available for the P-55, ranging from a
variety of microphones, to the storage case. The price for the latter (empty)
was DM 75 in June 1958
The Operating Instructions
list the following add-ons:
- Crystal microphone (standard)
- Table speaker/microphone
- Wrist-watch microphone
- Throat microphone
- Dynamic (moving coil) microphone
- Stetoset phones
- Single type ear-set
- Electrical foot control
- Mechanical foot control
- Telephone pick-up
- Recording & play-back cable
- Car battery adapter
- Telephone transformer
In this YouTube video, Fran Blanche give a full account of the P-55 and its interior .
- Roland Schellin, Spion in der Tasche
Detailed history of Protona and the Minifon recorders
ISBN: 3-936012-00-8 (German)
- Protona GmbH, Operating Instructions for Your Minifon P-55
Official instruction manual (24 pages + 2 pages supplement), December 1957 (English)
- Protona GmbH, Das Neue Minifon P55
Sales brochure, March 1957
- Protona GmbH, Preisliste für minifon P 55 - und Spezialzubehör
Price list for the Minifon P-55 and special accessories, 1958 (German)
- Militär Historisches Museum, Achtung Spione (Katalog)
ISBN 978-3-95498-209-7. Dresden, March 2016. p. 348.
- Fran Blanche, World's Smallest All-Tube Spy Recorder - The Minifon P-55
YouTube, 12 April 2019.
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© Crypto Museum. Created: Saturday 24 March 2012. Last changed: Thursday, 16 April 2020 - 20:53 CET.