«Штуковина» Льва Термена

автор: Денис Песков

Пришёл ответ откуда не ждали относительно того, почему гугловская заставка о терменвоксе была ассоциирована с ученицей изобретателя, а не с ним самим. Недавно прочитанная мной книга о борьбе американских дешифровщиков с советскими пролила свет: оказывается, Лев Термен не слабо досадил американцам, разработав помимо чудо-инструмента и невиданный шпионский чудо-гаджет, с помощью которого прослушивались разговоры аж четырёх американских послов в Москве.  Понятно, что чествовать  ТАКОГО гения американская корпорация не захотела. Ларчик открывался просто

The most famous penetration of the U.S. embassy was the Great Seal bug, also discovered during Kennan’s ambassadorship. Having requested a thorough sweep of his residence and the embassy, Kennan was sent a security team from Washington. To check for any voice-activated bugs, one of the technicians asked the ambassador to sit at his desk at Spaso House after hours and go through the motions of dictating a letter to his secretary. Kennan, with a certain touch of humor, chose to read from his 1936 cable in which he did nothing but recycle his predecessor’s dispatches from czarist Russia to show that nothing had changed under the Communist regime. Suddenly detecting a UHF signal coming from behind Kennan’s desk, the technician began hacking at the wall behind a wooden replica of the Great Seal of the United States that hung there. He then turned his hammer to the seal itself and pulled from behind the carved eagle’s beak a three-quarter-inch-diameter diaphragm-covered cylinder, attached to a short rod antenna.
Большая печать США — Great Seal of the United States

The seal had been presented as a gift from Russian schoolchildren to Ambassador Averell Harriman in 1945 and had hung there ever since. The American engineers who discovered it dubbed it “the Thing.” Its principle of operation was ingenious. The Thing was entirely passive, requiring no power supply and giving off no signal itself until it was illuminated by a microwave radio beam aimed from an adjoining building. As the diaphragm vibrated in and out in response to sound waves coming from the room, it minutely changed the shape, and thus the resonant frequency, of the cavity formed by the small cylinder. That slight distuning of a resonant frequency around 1800 MHz caused the strength of one of the harmonics of the incoming illuminating signal to fluctuate, producing a modulated radio signal of the same kind generated by an AM radio transmitter. The resulting signal could be picked up from a nearby location outside the building.

Even more remarkable was the story behind the device. In 1987 the English-language Moscow News ran a series of articles about the musical inventor Léon Theremin, revealing him to have been the secret genius behind the Great Seal bug. Theremin, inventor of the eponymous electronic instrument, had come to America in 1927, hailed as “the Soviet Edison.” In New York he performed concerts, including two at Carnegie Hall, on his futuristic musical instrument, cutting a dashing appearance as a slim figure in white tie and tails standing intently before the strange device, hands hovering near two antennas and circling in small, dramatically precise motions to vary the pitch and volume of the otherworldly sounds emerging from the theremin. He also invented during the prewar years a remote-control device for aircraft, a wireless intruder alarm (the “radio watchman”), and a prototype television system.

He was also a Soviet spy, having been recruited by the GRU before leaving Russia, and throughout his time in America he supplied reports on aircraft and avionics technology gleaned from his consulting work with Bendix and other U.S. defense contractors. In 1938, Theremin abruptly vanished from New York. Friends were convinced he had been kidnapped by the Soviet authorities. In fact, his business going bad, deeply in debt, and with a messy trail of marriage, divorce, and girlfriends behind him, he had decided to return on his own to Russia. He chose the worst possible time. It was the height of Stalin’s purges, and Theremin was immediately arrested and forced to confess to being a “fascist spy.” He was sentenced to eight years in the Gulag. But after a few months at a labor camp under brutal conditions, he was transferred to a sharashka, a special facility where prisoners with scientific training were put to work on research projects for the state. (Other famous sharashka inmates during this time were Andrei Tupolev, the aircraft designer; Sergei Korolev, a major figure in the future Soviet space program; and the writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.) It was there that Theremin designed the Great Seal bug. He later also developed the Buran, an eavesdropping device that reflected a beam of infrared light off the glass of a window to detect vibrations generated by sounds inside a room. Freed in 1947, Theremin was awarded the Stalin Prize for his achievements while a prisoner of the state.