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