Peilempfänger

Part 3 of a vaguely defined theme on obscure spy equipment.

Part 1 was the first American radar.

Part 2 was the Russian Tenzor portable spy rig.

Today I’m featuring a Kraut portable direction finder or Peilempfänger. (Peilen = take a compass bearing; Empfänger = receiver.) It’s not as interesting as the other two, so I didn’t devote much attention to the schematics and functions; but one aspect struck me as dissonant.

Here the Peilempfänger operator is searching for an Untermensch transmitter. He has two choices. Резидентка Полистра may be sending with her Тензор rig; and Спутник may be sending pictures back to Moscow.

The web doesn’t offer much info on this rig. There’s only one photo of a truck, which seems to be a Borgward. Krauts favored this blue-gray color for military trucks.

Back view as seen by the operator entering the truck:

And here’s what the operator would see while using the rig.

He would be turning the big handwheel, directly rotating the loop antenna over the truck. The antenna mechanism has three concentric dials. The outer dial is fixed, representing directions wrt the truck itself. The inner dial is controlled by the big knob in the middle, to represent true north. Finally, the antenna’s motion is repeated by the red pointer sandwiched between the two dials. As he tried various angles, the little meter on the left side of the receiver would indicate signal strength. He would also be listening through headphones, which is generally a better indicator of centering.

The stopwatch is peculiar. At first I thought the brown panel in the middle was a viewport for a magic-eye tube, but there’s no magic-eye in the radio. It’s just a leather pad to cushion a hanging watch, so the precision of the watch isn’t affected by the truck’s vibrations.

What’s dissonant? FESTIVE COLORS. This Telefunken receiver has colors and shapes for every purpose.

Krauts are not known for festivity. Krauts are precise and rigid and NUMERICAL. But German military radio equipment used colors far more than ours, to represent operating modes and wavebands.

I’ve seen and used a lot of American WW2 radio stuff, and I’ve never seen a color. Dials are black and white, outside case is either olive drab or unpainted aluminum.

Here’s a comparison of a 1918 Telefunken with our 1918 receiver. More festivity!

The Soviet Тензор also used colors for UI/UX. Our equipment in the ’50s was still black and white and drab all over.

We’ve been missing a beat in the UI/UX department. Our adversaries were making life a bit more interesting for their operatives, and adding personality to the various controls.

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Footnote: Speaking of festive colors and obscure cryptographic machines, here’s the absolute CHAMPION. The Barbie toy typewriter. Pink and purple and soft-looking, it’s not really a toy at all. It’s a fully functional electronic word processor with a built-in Enigma-style ciphering system. According to the web info, the ciphering system can be activated by a key sequence which isn’t mentioned in the ads or the currently used manual.

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