The CueCat will always hold a place in hardware hacking history. Actually, anything that makes C&D letters start the to fly will guarantee memory. The CueCat is a simple barcode scanner that was a magazine throw-in. Most people got their’s from Wired, but you could get them from Radio Shack for free. The idea was to scan barcodes embedded in magazine ads and the included software would take you directly to the related website. The problem was that each of these devices transmitted its unique serial number to the software so the parent company could track what you were interested in. Well techies weren’t having any of that and soon began stripping off the serial number. The device also didn’t work as a regular barcode scanner because of some built-in obfuscation. People were able to change the device to read regular UPC codes and then cataloging software was developed so you could keep track of your movies, books, and CDs. Needless to say the company was not happy with this development. Here is one site’s story.
[carpespasm] had sent this in last week and I had brushed it off thinking “yeah I’ve seen it before, and it is interesting, but the old specialized hardware gives it limited appeal”. In a bit of zen BoingBoing recently posted about a liquidator selling two million of these things. You don’t have to buy that many though. I bumped over to eBay and found that for a couple of bucks you can get one of these. So, if you’re curious the hardware is out there.