Parallax RFID Reader for Ten Bucks

We  received a tip about Radio Shack putting Parallax’s RFID reader on clearance for around $10. The only reference we could find that indicated Radio Shack sold the reader was a review page. The reader originally sold for around $50 in the stores, so getting it for $10 made it worth a curiosity trip to a local Radio Shack. The store we visited did not have the reader marked down in the drawer, but it rang up for $9.97. It is too bad that the reader was so expensive in the first place, otherwise Radio Shack might still be selling them at full price. This is by no means a promotion, we just though we would share the information in case you were interested in getting one yourself. If Radio Shack is out, you could always build your own reader.

The reader we purchased only came with one tag, perhaps that is why the they have been on clearance. Hooked up to an FTDI USB to serial cable, it would repeatedly send out the tag’s number whenever it was in range. We tried an HID-labeled card and a tag of the kind that can be found in books and DVD cases. Neither worked with the reader, but we’ll keep looking.

Thanks to [bluewraith] for the tip.

Comments

  1. AJ says:

    Hey can you guys ammend this posting if you find anything that works with the reader?

  2. Ken says:

    HID cards don’t use the standard protocol for the 125KHz frequency.

  3. Carlos says:

    What tag type did yours come with? And where in the store did you find yours? If the part number is no good online, will i be able to call in to my local stores to check if they have any in stock?

  4. GCL says:

    Hi!
    The one I bought some months ago was already on clearance. As it happens it was only half the regular price and with two RFID cards.

    I imagine there might be something to it.

    Incidentally the cards that you tried may have been set for other frequencies.

  5. chango says:

    Got a couple last week, both with some random tags. Fired it right up with a Bus Pirate since I only have 3.3V USB-to-serial converters. Works ok, but I noticed that it will spontaneously spit out bogus codes, maybe 1 every 10 minutes or so. I don’t know if it’s cell phone interference or just some quirk.

    Side note: the tag in books and DVD cases are not RFID. They’re tuned loops that are designed just to set off the detectors.

  6. Carlos says:

    Also, HID makes a TON of RFID stuff. Do you happen to know what model/line/classification of tag you were using?

    i have tags from them that work in both the 125 KHZ and the 13.95 MHZ bands, and based on a little research, this parallax reader works with 125 KHZ. If you look at the data sheet parallax provides, they mention ” The Parallax RFID Reader Module works exclusively with the EM Microelectronics-Marin SA EM4100-family
    of passive read-only transponder tags. ”

    Which, according to this data sheet : http://www.digchip.com/datasheets/parts/datasheet/147/EM4100.php

    the em4100 series is 125KHz.

    I do not know if any/all 125KHz chips will work or if the reader is looking for a specific sequence or ID before it sends out the tag it receives.

    I am really looking to make one of the RFID beer fridges they featured on SYSTM a while back.

  7. Randy says:

    The Parallax reader works with EM4100-type tags. Parallax seems to be selling them from their site for about a buck each – but Seeedstudio sells them at 5 for $2.50:

    http://www.seeedstudio.com/depot/rfid-tag-combo-125khz-5-pcs-p-194.html?cPath=40

  8. xeracy says:

    Bought one at MakerFaire. Was really bummed that of all the tags i had in my room from various objects, it would only read the tags it came with. btw, the package i purchased had some disk tags, 2 cards, and a keychain tag. It cost well over 10$.

  9. zerth says:

    @chango Random interference. I forget if it was in the docs or a previous HaD, but comparing 2 successive readings was recommended.

  10. Pat says:

    Just picked up 3 today for $10 each. Also buying 5 components got me an additional %25 off.

  11. MS3FGX says:

    “a tag of the kind that can be found in books and DVD cases. Neither worked with the reader, but we’ll keep looking.”

    The HaD editorial process is always amazing to me. How does the dude who doesn’t know what RFID is get assigned the RFID article?

    Anyway, I will have to go around the local Radio Shacks and see if they have any of these left. I have seen them on previous trips, but always dismissed them because of cost; though I am pretty sure I saw them for $30 and not $50, so perhaps this has been a steady price drop.

  12. bluewraith says:

    I’ve seen elsewhere that they have been marked down for a few months. I picked mine up last week on a parts run. I noticed it hanging there with a sale tag on it and figured what the hell, its only $10. The package had already been opened, so I figured that was why. When I did some more research on it, I found a forum posting stating that all the stores had them on clearance. Some stores may have not updated the shelf talker, but it will still ring up at $9.97.

    I wish my local RS had more. I never messed with RFID before, but at a $10 entry cost I think I have some pretty good ideas on what to use them for. Defiantly going to be on the lookout for them when I travel though.

  13. tripp says:

    I can verify this, the Parallax RFID reader and a few other things have gone on Clearance just recently. I remember putting out the tag for it. I’ll get some exact pricing on a couple things tomorrow during my shift.

  14. Comrade says:

    I’d love to get my hands on one of these for that price but there isn’t a radio shack for at least a hundred miles from here and there’s no listing for it on their website…

  15. bluewraith says:

    @tripp
    I also heard about the TSL230R Light to Frequency Converter being marked down as well, but considering its only a couple of bucks to start with its not as great of a steal. What I’d like to see is the PING))) module come down. My local has about 5 or 6 of those in stock.

    @Comrade
    Get buddy-buddy with someone on a forum somewhere?

  16. Comrade says:

    @bluewraith
    I forgot I can play the friend card, I’ve got a couple buddies that live close to one.

  17. nutz4hs says:

    @ comrade, drop me an email, see what i can do.

    nutz4hs(at)yahoo(.)com

  18. nemo says:

    this is not a hack, and please spellcheck.

  19. smash2k says:

    just picked one of these up. plugged into my arduino and it was good to go.

  20. Dave Jensen says:

    As stated above, the reader is limited to reading ASK Manchester encoded EM4100/4102 tags only. If you need to read (or clone) HID type access cards then you would need an RFID FSK device like is described at proxclone.com

  21. orange says:

    Sure they are $10. Sure they are cheap. But really, how useful is this thing? If it can only read one thing at a time, at very close range, I don’t see why you couldn’t just use say, an analog pin and resistor ladder.

    I am very tempted at $10 but I see no use for RFID.

  22. wernicke says:

    @chango,
    a lot of books and dvds do just have tattle-tape, but more and more libraries are using true RFID (13.56Mhz). Those ones won’t work with this 125Khz reader.

  23. Nick says:

    Thanks for the post Hackaday!!! I just picked two of these guys up. Time to play! :D

  24. sparticle says:

    Anyone have the clearance item number for this thing? The reader no longer turns up in a product search since it’s on clearance. They didn’t have any at my local store and employees need the clearance item number to point you to a nearby store that does have it.

  25. hackbert says:

    the one from seedstudios is available for 13 bucks and reads all 125khz tags (even the ATtiny ones ;)… And the 13 Ghz Reader costs 30 bucks there …

  26. Haku says:

    Can some kind soul drop some on eBay with international postage please? Here in the UK those readers are £34 (about $50) each!!

  27. frolix says:

    Just picked up two of these at the 2nd RadShack I visited. I’m hoping to eventually build a reader/spoofer to get free parking in one of the many overpriced garages near me in Atlanta (or at least clone my roommate’s $68/month pass). I know i’ll need different hardware but these should provide a good starting point.

  28. bbsux says:

    Got the last three in my town today.

  29. sparticle says:

    Here’s the clearance item number. Call ahead to make sure they have some in stock first, or to find another location that does.

    RFID Sendor Module ($9.97) 2760032

    And yeah, the light-to-frequency converter is on clearance too. Not a huge deal but still cool.

    Light to Frequency Converter ($1.97) 2760034

  30. Tim says:

    Thanks for the tip! While they hadn’t changed the price sticker once they scanned it the price came up as 10 dollars.

  31. marienbad says:

    FYI:
    At the Davis, CA store, they told me:
    “They were on clearance for $10 but sold out *about a month ago*”

  32. Carlos says:

    i just picked up the last 4 at my local radio shack. ill be keeping 1 of them but the other 3 are going up on ebay

  33. NatureTM says:

    I also picked one up. Thought about buying the other one they had, but I figured there must be another hack a day reader in my area who could use one. The price was still marked as $50 and I can confirm the markdown will be taken at the register automatically.

    Thanks bluewraith and hack a day!

  34. Just picked up one…got it working in <10 mins on a bread board w/ usb to serial converter… It has good range as documented…it does occasionally spit out garbage IDs though… generally with a lot of zeroes…but not too often.

    0F03039100 – good
    C00000C000 – garbage
    F000F00000 – garbage
    F0000F0000 – garbage
    F000000001 – garbage

    Don't have a use for it yet… but at $10 it's nice to have in the parts box. Came with credit card style and disk/token style tags (one of each).

  35. My local RS had two… now they have none : p

  36. Alex says:

    Thanks for the tip! Just picked up the last one at my local Radioshack.

  37. Andrew says:

    Went to Cookeville, TN radioshack – can confirm that it does ring up as ~$10.00 (it was more like $9.90)

    The manager was confused and called up another radioshack to verify. Came out with 2 readers for 25 bucks :)

  38. Ian says:

    Grabbed one today in Ohio. $10, not marked. Retail tag was still on for $50. O_O

    Checking another ‘shack or two tomorrow — the one closest to me is closed on Sundays.

  39. bbsux says:

    Strange mine all 3 of mine came with 2 credit card sized tags…

  40. yellowFun says:

    I picked up one in queen ann seattle. rang up 9.97USD and the guy working there was really confused as to why they’ve sold so many of them lately. Was asking me if there was some weird competition or something going on.

  41. NatureTM says:

    Got it working with the Arduino as an auth device. Seems like it has a noticeable read delay but that might just be a quirk in my code. There’s some example code in the Arduino playground, but that wouldn’t have been fun, so I decided to reinvent the wheel. The garbage data hasn’t been an issue since the key transmission is encapsulated by start and end constant bytes. Just have to read the key twice to be sure we’re not authenticating a monkey at a typewriter.

    I’m thinking I’ll throw this into a motorcycle with a push-button starter that only works if I’m sitting on the bike. That should confuse people enough for a little entertainment. I’ll have to make sure that’s legal in my area (or not). Also, I agree with previous posts that the range might be a concern.

  42. PocketBrain says:

    Grrr… 2 for 2 on sold out. Gotta map more Radio Shacks in my area. Maybe recruit family members, too.

  43. soup says:

    I have been wanting to play with Arduino and RFID, but didn’t think about using them together. This price markdown got me excited, and somehow left the Radio Shack with 7 of the little buggers.

  44. Ian says:

    Forgot to mention I only got one tag with mine. Static bag was ripped, though RadioSlack packaging was still intact.

    ALSO

    It would appear the aux chip (EM4095) is capable of writeback via an extra I/O pin that’s currently grounded. And the rest of the unit runs on a PIC16F627A. Interesting.

  45. xorpunk says:

    doesn’t work with 90% of RFID standards, it’s not even worth the clearance.

  46. Randy says:

    So, xorpunk, you know of a reader that works with 90% of RFID standards for $10?

  47. strider_mt2k says:

    I grabbed the last two from my former store.
    As soon as I read the article I grabbed the wife and shot out there to say hi ho to my former boss and grab those things.

    Might be fun in the future.

  48. Lars Haeh says:

    Sadly they don’t seem to have this in Canada.

  49. zach says:

    i got it the other day, i went to radioshack, got one, brought it hoe, it didnt work, returned it, that one didnt work, returned that one, got a new one, didnt work. RETURNED IT AGAIN, got one with a chip resistor missing, and i finally complained to the manager, he would not refund me because it was supposedly my fault that the chip resistor was not there. i pointed out that this thing looks wave soldered, and there was no solder on the contact pads of the board, he rudely gave me a credit card, with a $3 restocking fee. I will never go back.

    I will never go back their because the service is crap, prices are marked up terribly high, and thier products are failures!

  50. Tuckie says:

    I just called the two around my town, and struck out at both locations :(

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