A pen recorder is a device which functions both as a pen and a recorder for audio, video, or both. These devices are used in a number of different applications. Electronics stores sometimes carry them, as do spy stores and gadget stores which stock novelty devices. It is also possible to order pen recorders through a number of manufacturers and online retailers. Do it yourselfers have also been known to create their own.
The most basic pen recorder is simply a pen with a microphone pickup embedded in the body of the pen. The sound quality is typically not ideal, but is clear enough to be heard. Some pen recorders also add video functionality, in which case a small camera on the pen needs to be positioned to pick up the image. More sophisticated products work with special paper or digital tablets for functionality such as audio recording while taking notes which allows people to tap areas of their notes to access audio recorded at the time those notes were taken.
One obvious use of the pen recorder is in class. Some students find that it helps to be able to take notes and listen to audio recordings of lectures, and the pen recorder can also be used later to fill in gaps in the notes. Products which allow functionality such as synching notes and audio recording can be especially useful for people in programs which cover a lot of material, while a basic audio pen recorder can fulfill the needs of students in less demanding classes.
Law enforcement officers can also use pen recorders. Having a pen voice recorder allows an officer to take a recording of all interactions, and this recording can be used later if there is a dispute about what was said or in what order things occurred. While many law enforcement vehicles have video and audio recording, officers are not always around their cars, and it can be useful to have that functionality when working with members of the public.
Sometimes known as “spy pens,” pen recorders are undoubtedly used by at least some members of the intelligence community, but working intelligence agents tend to keep mum about their tactics. Pen recorders are used in law enforcement investigations and in other settings when people want to be able to record surreptitiously. Would-be spies should be aware that in some regions there are laws about where and when people can record, with the intent of protecting the reasonable expectation to privacy.