A "Red Box" was one of several 1900's Phone Phreaking Color Boxes, which was basically a tape loop of the sound that Pay Phones made when you put coins in them. It fooled the phone company into registering the coins so that free calls could be made. Although the telephone network may still work with Rotary Phones, it has evolved away from the simplicity that permitted such simply bizarre tinkering. The colors must have been arbitrary since standard color coding for cracking tools would have only been beneficial to Law Enforcement. It is also probably unreasonable to assume that the law anticipated simple unintended ambiguities being exploited in the system.

There is a far easier way to construct a red box that doesn't require much knowledge of circuit board construction or soldering.

1. Buy a Radio Shack (model 43-139) pocket phone dialer
2. Open it up
3. Replace the crystal (the silver tube-looking thing) with a 6.5536 Mhz. crystal. This will require soldering two connections. Deal.
4. Close it up
5. Save into memory five * (star) tones
6. Viola.

Or if you own a gameboy you can purchase a red box emulation cartridge on the net.

The red box still works, unlike it's blue box breathren, because the payphone systems are still basically the same as they've always been. The only way the telco knows that you've put your money in is through a tone that's sent over the phone line. Newer payphones disable the mouthpiece, which is actually a good solution, but one that hasn't been implemented very much. The advent of ESS effectively spelled the end of 2600 Hz. phreaking, but red boxing is still going strong -- probably the reason Radio Shack still sells the pocket phone dialers.
A much easier way to red box is to buy a voice memo minder, or something similar from pretty much anywhere that sells electronics (Radio Shack, Sharpher Image, etc)

Find the tones online (or find someone else with a tone dialer), play them out of your speakers and record them into the device. Voila, your very own red box. It's probably not worth it to find anything but the quarter tone (Why have exact change when quarters are free?)

This sort of device is also handy in that you can record over the tone easily should someone of authority question your actions.

Purchasing a tone dialer and the crystal to match is pretty suspect anyway, especially if you can go about things in another fashion. I suddenly realized that I didn't really have anybody to call, and I never really liked talking on the phone. I would call Alaskan area codes, and just basically ask what Alaska was like, but with the advent of internet popularity, the fun in this is mostly gone. Some enterprising young individual saw me do this, and began mass purchasing these things and selling them to poor saps who wanted to call 'internet ladies' over the phone in real life, and it seemed to work pretty well for them.

I would have just given the information away, but that's just how much of a dork I am.

I used to build red boxes for a living. I built them, but they weren't called red boxes anymore... they were called 'chingers.'

I was first taught how to make red boxes in the summer of 1993 by my friend Sprite in Chicago. We were veterans of the Persian Gulf War Protest Scene as well as the general radical red/black scene in Chicago. At the time, Sprite was involved in setting up Chicago's first Infoshop, The Autonomous Zone, when he taught me how to build red boxes and recycle postage stamps. I was in town after having split from my wife and having left the west coast.

Well, it was later on in the spring of 1994 that I was broke and homeless in Santa Cruz, California when I had the bright idea to take the red box to a Jerry Garcia show in San Francisco at the Warfield Theater and swing it.

This worked out well, as I found a custy and sold the box to him for $150 (a 400% markup over my costs of $30 for the Radio Shack unit and the chip.

That spring tour, I went into business seeding the Dead Tour with chingers as they were now known, due to their ability to ching (as in, "cha-ching... I just called NYC from SF for free!"

Drug dealers, Deadheads and travelers in general loved the chinger... because for one fixed price they could call anywhere in the US from anywhere in the US for free.

Well, to make a long story short, I taught several others how to build chingers and they in turn taught lots of other folks... so that within a year or so, the market was so proliferated with chingers that the price had fallen to about $50 from the initial $150 I had charged.

I stopped building chingers for pay after only a few months in the business, because someone named Don Juan (I shit you not) mega-dosed me with raw crystal LSD and I ended up going on the proverbial long strange trip for the next 10 days... winding up in a Long Island, New York institution named King's Park, where I bounced off the walls for some time before coming down and getting released.

Never sold another chinger after that... well, at least not for profit.

Thus being the moral of the story... something that is intended to allow free communication should not be profited from. What a greedy hippie I was.

By the way a red box is a telephone fraud device that mimicks the frequency made by an old-school Ma Bell telephone when money was introduced to it. Putting money in the coin slot caused a DTMF or Dual Tone Multi Frequency signal to be sent out to the central switchign box which registered it and when enough money had been inserted into the phone would connect the call. Red Boxes enabled a user to fake out he central box by sending the tone and not the cash. Worked like a charm till they caught on and learned how to tuen the mouth peice reciever off until enough money to connect the call had been inserted.

I always used Radio shack red boxes. Later on people used micro digital recorders to record the sound a red box made and simply used this copy of the copy.

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