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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gadgets Let People Be Like Bond




HARTFORD, Connecticut -- He might be handsome, but James Bond just wouldn't be 007 without his gadgets.


From a miniature camera, to a tiny dart gun, to a wristwatch filled with plastic explosives, Bond has always been well-equipped.


You probably can't buy an exploding pen such as the one Bond used in "Goldeneye." And a mini-jet airplane disguised as a horse's rear-end, such as the one Bond used to escape in "Octopussy," might be hard to come by.


But why should Bond have all the fun? An amazing amount of Bond-like spy technology is available for consumer purchase at relatively affordable prices.


Tiny video cameras, hidden listening devices and portable lie detectors are just a few of the things for sale at spy shops and, of course, on the Internet.


"We're one of the biggest suppliers of surveillance equipment in the nation," said Kelly Fromm, chief executive of Counter Intelligence Technologies, based in Daytona Beach, Florida. "We have four stores, and the average-Joe consumer is our biggest customer."


Bill Zalud, editorial director for Security magazine, said the retail end of the security industry in the United States is estimated at $4 billion annually. Overall, the industry takes in $88 billion, but much of that is for private security systems that large businesses use, he said.


Part of the reason consumer sales are up, dealers say, is that prices are down. The march of technology has made electronic devices cheaper and smaller, just as it has in the world of computers.


"Just over the last two or three years, it's become affordable, and it's become available to the masses," Fromm said. "A lot of the products that we sell were only available to law enforcement up until two years ago."


The Internet has been a factor, spreading information about spy gadgets and enabling vendors to reach prospective customers, wherever they may be.


One rancher, for example, flew from Texas to New York to buy night-vision goggles so he and his foreman could foil cattle rustlers who were stealing livestock under cover of darkness, said Marsha Pearl, of CSS International, which runs The Counter Spy Shop at Madison Avenue and 49th Street in Manhattan.


"There's a lot of people interested in securing their families and their valuables," said Pearl, whose company also operates a site at www.spyzone.com.


If Bond couldn't get help from gadget scientist Q, he might buy a few helpful gizmos over the counter. Here's some of what's available, as advertised:


-Telephone with Truth.Quest function: Telephone registers "voice stress" to determine which callers may not be telling the truth. Stress level indicated via green, yellow or red light on phone. Price: $49.95 (www.sharperimage.com).


-Miniature video camera: Billed as the world's smallest video camera, this matchbook-sized device can be hidden almost anywhere. Runs from battery or wall socket. Broadcasts signal to receiving station. Price, including receiving station: $450 (www.spooktech.com).


-Super listening microphone: Pulls in sounds from as far away as 91 meters. Covers the entire range of human hearing. Price: $39.95 (www.edgeco.com).


-Telephone voice changer: This device disguises your voice over the telephone. Slips right onto ordinary telephone handset; uses three different voice pitches. Price: $29.95 (www.edgeco.com).


-Secret compartment briefcases: Hide important papers, valuables, other personal objects in men's attache case. Price: $389 (www.spyzone.com).


-Night vision binoculars: These devices allow users to see in darkness using infrared lighting. Price: $599 (www.edgeco.com). Similar technology can be adapted for camera lenses to enable flash-free photography in darkness.