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Spy Equipment is Not just for the movies

Adrian Mudd   June 9, 2008

If you’ve seen James Bond or Mission Impossible you’ll have seen amazing spy equipment but surveillance gadgets don’t just exist on celluloid.

In the movies

There are many reasons why people invest in spy equipment, although the reasons may not be as glamorous or adventurous as being 007 in the James Bond movies or Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible. But the spy equipment available in the real world, such as hidden cameras and hidden recording devices is just as impressive as the gadgets from the movies.

In 2006 a fake rock was discovered in Moscow that was in fact allegedly a British surveillance device. It seemed to be something from the movies – but the world of spy equipment; espionage and fiction have always gone hand in hand.

Fired imagination

Spy equipment and spying has always fired the imagination of filmmakers. Using spy gadgets to eavesdrop, taking on fake identities, deceit, danger and tension all make for good plots. The TV-hit Spooks is a testament to our love of spy equipment in fiction. But is it real?

Ever since the Cold War spy equipment has developed with the help of advances in technology. Of course, surveillance is not just about spying on secret agents – surveillance and spy equipment is used in everyday life too, particularly for businesses seeking increased security.

Boys adventure story

Spy equipment and gadgets have long been the stuff of boys adventure stories but they are not all make-believe. Ian Fleming, who created James Bond, worked in naval intelligence during World War II and was inspired by the spy equipment he came across in the real world. Security intelligence at times of war can often inspire the author’s imaginations.

Real life spy equipment:

  • The human torpedo in the Bond film Thunderball was inspired by real life spy equipment in World War II – The Italians used torpedoes piloted by frogmen to destroy merchant vessels.
  • The poison needle pen in Moonraker was similar to a fountain pen detonator supplied to the British during the Second World War.

The line between fact and fiction when it comes to spy equipment is blurred. The idea that bugs were hidden in the heels of a shoe sounds like it belongs in an episode of The Man from Uncle, but in fact during the Cold War, Western diplomats had bugs implanted in their shoes by Romanian intelligence officers.