Radioshack Phone Dialer – Red Box

i thought i’d start out with this hack while we’re in beta, since it was one of the first ones that really got me interested in the way phones worked and how many consumer electronics can be used for new and educational things. a “red box” was a device that would simulate coins being dropped in to a pay-phone, hence free phone calls for many people until the phone systems changed. the most popular device to modify was a radioshack tone dialer, a simple solder of a 6.5536 mhz crystal was all it took and you could “drop” 5, 10 and 25 cents at a time to make calls.

54 thoughts on “Radioshack Phone Dialer – Red Box

  1. You can take one of those hallmark cards with the recorder chip… take off the mic and put on a jack, solder the “card switch” wires to a real switch and record the tones using your sound card on your PC. Costs like $10? The entire thing (speaker and all) fits in an old dat tape case.

  2. In reply to the person above, the blue box was a tone generator. It was used to spit out a 2,600 hz tone which was the switch for long distance calls. One could blow this tone during a call, and be left in a limbo of sorts. The next step would be to use the frequencies for dialing numbers, and ‘dial’ the number you wanted.

    The most common use was to dial zero, then blow the blue box, and then dial the number you wanted.

    my 2 cents.

  3. I modded the new tone dialer pictured before. It does not allow you to pay a quarter (5 tones), but I was successfully able to emulate the nickel. (one tone only)

    The reason is that the timing of this dialer is too slow to play the five tones quick enough for a phone system. Since the nickel sound is just a single tone, timing issues are no problem, only frequency which is solved by using the 6.5536mhz crystal.

    Since you dont want to hit the nickel a ton of times every call, you can program the following string to emulate many nickels.

    *0*0*0*0*0*0*0*0*0* etc…

    This way the 0 digit plays a tone that the phone doesnt care about (its not the tone of any “real” frequency the phone uses) so you can use the 0 for timing. If you just program:

    **************** etc…

    The tones are played too close together causing it to sound sorta like a quarter but not close enough to work.. usually prompting an operator to come on the line (almost every time) when it phreaks out and confuses the system.

    moral of the story use, *0*0*0*0*0*0.. .

    Also this is a GREAT tone dialer for programming real numbers in (digital display etc.) actually using it for its real purpose.

    Sooo… I suggest installing a murcury switch or toggle switch (or even modify one of the push buttons? ). This way you can switch from mod or unmodded. Leaving both crystals in. Theres not a whole lot of room inside the dialer though… its very sleek..

    Anyways great mod!

    You can program a special string into the dialer that will try all possible answering machine secret codes (often only two digits) since they usually dont mind you trying multiple guesses… for the phat phingered…

    Then you will have an old school red box and answering machine hacker in one!!!
    HAHA the Radio Shack guy (idiots..) told me the same thing when I modded my first tone dialer! “This is the last one, we wont be getting more.. and Ill sell it for 24.95”

    They must have this as a speel? I went back about 6 months later and they had “their last two left, and they will give me a 24.95 deal”

    Maybe they were told to say this so you dont go buying ten and modding them. (apparently Rad Shack is wise to red boxers, scanner modification etc.)

    And Im really saddened to say.. both the red box, and A.M. hack, both old school tricks… still work here in select parts of san diego, CA. one of the biggest cities! you would think people would learn by now…

    Here is the string for those of you who have modified the redbox and tone dialer and want a cool answering machine hacker.. obviously play this in normal tones. (you can even manually dial this for those who dont have the dialer)

    “In this example, from a letter published in
    2600 Magazine: The Hacker’s Quarterly (, an answering machine
    of this type with a 2-digit code can be accessed with the following
    keystroke combination:


    If you examine the above string, every two-digit number combination has
    been entered (00, 01, 11, 12, etc.) Keep in mind that that string is the
    maximum amount of numbers you would need to enter to access that box. On
    average, you’d enter about half.”

  4. ok i just downloaded the redbox nickel dime and quarter tones and stuck them on my ipod. i went to my local pay phone and tried all of them and i got nothing. i havent triend the blue box method of dialing something then a 2600 tone then dial though. does this need to be done on older phones, or do i need to get the volume right?

  5. unfotrunately “blue boxing” does not work in most parts of the world anymore. but just so you know, you are going to need the KP and ST tones to go before and after the number you want to dial. for example: you could dial 0 then wait for the operator to answer and blow the 2600hz tone (you have now seized a trunk). now, since you need to tell the system what you want to do you would blow a KP tone. this tells the system that you want to make a call. after the KP tone you would dial the 10 digit telephone number and to make the call go through you would blow a ST tone. the reason your red box may not have worked is because there are payphones out there that do not allow the microphone to be turned on before you pay for the call. it could also be the volume level of the tones being played. the trick is to not play them to loudly because when you put money in (for real) you can barely hear the beeping in the background signaling that the money was placed and to let you call. and you should always try to ‘cup’ your hand around the ear phones (from ipod) and the microphone (from the phone) incase it is windy…etc… external noise from anything else can destort the tones. now if you want to try something really nifty! you can get some green box tones!! “oooooo ahhhhhhh” what does this do you might ask ? well ill tell you. a green box plays tones into the pay phone so that when you actually put in coins, the phone holds them from going down into the money collector when you hang up. one tone is played for holding the coins and the other is played for releasing them through the coin return. if you like hands on things you should also look for somethig called a “pearl box”
    When constructed, there will be 4 or 5 knobs depending on which model you make. 4 of the 5 will be for the number places (tens hundreds etc.) so you can control the frequency of the tone you would like. and yep! you guessed it! you can make all the tones with this box. (the 5th knob being for volume and there will be a button to press that plays the tone on an 8ohm speaker)

    all the plans for these boxes can be found at when you get to this site scroll down and click on the link that says “where are the files?” from there click on “phreak” (meaning telephone hacker if you didnt know) and phreak away!

    and as a side note the “phreaks” change the f to a ph and a ph to an f on words that they feel like changing them on…for example “the phreak plays with the fone”

    have fun and dont get caught LOL

    (it is also a good thing to know that modding your home phone with tapping devices, any kinds of boxes..etc.. is perfectly legal(accept for the ones that get you free calls). only when you do it to someone elses phone without asking is when it becomes illegal :P )

  6. Heyaz!

    Where do I downlad the actual Red Box Tones?
    I may have found somewhere by the time you respond..maybe not…you’d be helping
    ANy help info/input would really be kool!

    Activist in Kalifornia
    PS read Player Piano by Vonnegut :D

  7. Mauve Phone tap without cutting into a line

    That is the definition you are thinking of right?

    Well ill just copy paste these bbs files and see if it comes through ok…

    /~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ | How to Build Your Own |
    | |
    | | /| _ __ |
    | | / | |_| | | | | |__ |
    | | | | | |_| / |__ |
    | __ |
    | | _ |
    | |__/ / _/ |
    | | _/ / |
    | |__/ / |
    | _________/ |
    | |

    | Created by Captian Generic |
    | With Help from The Genetic |
    | Mishap. This File Created |
    | November 24th, 1986, 19:08 |

    Please bear with me, as the construction of this box will seem rather
    silly. This box was found in a construction site. Or rather, it found
    us at a construction site. We were using a $5 Radio Shack phone out of
    a semi-completed office building. One afternoon during a holiday, and
    immediately following a storm, we found our bus in shambles. To our
    suprise, we also found that one of the phone connections we were tapping
    had been draped through a murky puddle. The fact that suprised us even
    more was that this line still worked and now posessed some great


    2 tupperware or similar 8oz contianers
    1 small bag earth (dirt) (12oz)
    1 pint water
    2 lantern batteries
    1 nine volt battery
    1 battery clip
    2 SPST switches
    4 ounces of iron shavings
    2 polar magnets
    5 feet wire
    1 set soldering equipment

    This is the part you won’t believe. Take the tupperware containers, and
    fill them with a mixture of the earth and the iron shavings. Make sure
    that the mixture is well done. (*NOTE* for best results, use the sand in
    fine ash trays.) Cut the cut the red and green wires and splice the
    switches into them. From the switches, solder wire to the magnets.
    Connect the red to the + (positive) side of one magnet, and the green to
    the – (negative) side of the second magnet. From the other poles of the
    magnet, solder wires the battery & clip. Make sure the + (positive) and
    – (negative) are correct. Set the nine-volt battery between the two
    tupperware containers and place the battery end of the two magnets into
    the tupperware. Now connect wire to the two poles of the lantern
    battery, and place them in the same containers as the poles of the
    magnets/9-volt battery. You are almost done. Finally, add just enough
    water to the two pots, and let them sit in the sun and bake like bricks.
    at this point, you have a MAUVE BOX.

    Explaning and Using What You Have:

    The red and green wires have been places into a magnetic field which is
    being charged continually be a lantern battery. (It is necessary to
    change this battery every one to one and a half months.) This will
    literaly pull in the nearest phone conversatiion. (Don’t try this in a
    big apartment or dorm.) When the 9-volt battery is connected, this will
    now create enough current for the poles of the magnets to reverse
    themselves (perhaps you’re seen Mr. Wizard do this. It’s just like with
    the soap). At this point, you have a phone transmitting to one (if not
    more) of the nearest phones. (Again, if you’re in a dorm, don’t try
    this.) I suppose this just accomplishes what a tap would do, but with a
    MAUVE BOX, your fingerprints never will show on a terminal or on
    someones telephone lines.

    Notes and Addendum:

    This will only work with a touch-tone phone connected to a phone line.
    When the switches are pulled, it’s off your line and into the air. This
    is named a MAUVE BOX, becuase this is the most disgusting box, and I find
    mauve to be the single most disgusting colour I know of. Also, this file
    is for information purposes only. This is not to be used in an illegal
    mannar. Perhaps one of these by the pool, sending to your sethe co-author,
    accept no
    responsibility for your actions with the MAUVE BOX. Thank you…

    Its an old file :-)

  8. Its a goofy box, not sure if it works.

    Heres a list of most of the boxes and what they do

    09. What do all the colored boxes do?

    Acrylic Steal Three-Way-Calling, Call Waiting and programmable
    Call Forwarding on old 4-wire phone systems
    Aqua Drain the voltage of the FBI lock-in-trace/trap-trace
    Beige Lineman’s hand set
    Black Allows the calling party to not be billed for the call
    Blast Phone microphone amplifier
    Blotto Supposedly shorts every fone out in the immediate area
    Blue Emulate a true operator by seizing a trunk with a 2600hz
    Brown Create a party line from 2 phone lines
    Bud Tap into your neighbors phone line
    Chartreuse Use the electricity from your phone line
    Cheese Connect two phones to create a diverter
    Chrome Manipulate Traffic Signals by Remote Control
    Clear A telephone pickup coil and a small amp used to make free
    calls on Fortress Phones
    Color Line activated telephone recorder
    Copper Cause crosstalk interference on an extender
    Crimson Hold button
    Dark Re-route outgoing or incoming calls to another phone
    Dayglo Connect to your neighbors phone line
    Divertor Re-route outgoing or incoming calls to another phone
    DLOC Create a party line from 2 phone lines
    Gold Dialout router
    Green Emulate the Coin Collect, Coin Return, and Ringback tones
    Infinity Remotely activated phone tap
    Jack Touch-Tone key pad
    Light In-use light
    Lunch AM transmitter
    Magenta Connect a remote phone line to another remote phone line
    Mauve Phone tap without cutting into a line
    Neon External microphone
    Noise Create line noise
    Olive External ringer
    Party Create a party line from 2 phone lines
    Pearl Tone generator
    Pink Create a party line from 2 phone lines
    Purple Telephone hold button
    Rainbow Kill a trace by putting 120v into the phone line (joke)
    Razz Tap into your neighbors phone
    Red Make free phone calls from pay phones by generating
    quarter tones
    Rock Add music to your phone line
    Scarlet Cause a neighbors phone line to have poor reception
    Silver Create the DTMF tones for A, B, C and D
    Static Keep the voltage on a phone line high
    Switch Add hold, indicator lights, conferencing, etc..
    Tan Line activated telephone recorder
    Tron Reverse the phase of power to your house, causing your
    electric meter to run slower
    TV Cable “See” sound waves on your TV
    Urine Create a capacitative disturbance between the ring and
    tip wires in another’s telephone headset
    Violet Keep a payphone from hanging up
    White Portable DTMF keypad
    Yellow Add an extension phone

    That blotto box needs 20 hz put into the line if you are planning on making it.

  9. Hie my name is greg ive some computer knowledge
    and I have always been interested in the world of Hacking, Ive seen Hackers and a few other movies. I am only 17 and I want to know if there is a place where I can buy books on Hacking.

  10. Does anyone know how to make a box that will make all the phones ring in someones (my) house ?

    I read that all you need is about 90v ac and some HZ…somewhere between 20 and 40 hz

    Cant find anything on “HOW TO DO IT,” only “how its done.”


  11. Can you still break busy lines using a 2600 tone from a blue box. Powerdialers are F&^%ing worthless. I need to break into busy signals. If anyone on here can build me something to hack into a system and act like an operator to bypass busy signals I would pay a good sum of money. If anyone knows where I can get this email me. It will be worth your while.

    1. I might be able to help you out. I know an old phreaker from way back ive bought 2 signal jammers from him and some incredible radar detector jammers that can send back a reduced speed signature. I know his passion phreak hacks and he specializes in building hardware shoot an email if you want me to put you in touch. Cheers..

  12. How would someone tap into your phone line and make calls for free and when they do your personal phone number shows up? I was told my phone was tapped from the phone company’s line at the pole.

  13. I just want to post a comment here “to be part of ” the HackADay legacy…
    I am not sure how I found out about HaD, or when I made my first comment…
    Maybe HaD was mentioned on another site I frequently visited, like Evil Mad Scientist or somewhere.

  14. “greg says:
    September 6, 2005 at 3:55 pm
    Hie my name is greg ive some computer knowledge
    and I have always been interested in the world of Hacking, Ive seen Hackers and a few other movies. I am only 17 and I want to know if there is a place where I can buy books on Hacking.”

    Books! Christ!!! I suppose they were a thing back then. But I guess greg is now 33 years old, I wonder what happened, did he become a computer programmer when he grew up?

    Page 5233 and counting….

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