A Black Box Mystery

One of the members of the SomethingAwful forum recently found a black project box on the street (as seen above), with no idea what the thing did. After (hopefully) making sure there were no explosives, [noapparentfunction] posted a picture online to see if someone could figure it out. According to them, this is what the chips are labelled as:

Center black IC: MICREL Y22758C; 0417
Long white DIP switch IC: CTS 206-12; T438
Small black microcontroller on right: 12C508A; 04/P1V6; 0437. Has a tiny “M-inside circle” logo.

From our experience, we recognized the PIC on the board, but without some more photos, it makes this mystery a little more interesting.

Right now their best guess is a garage door opener of some kind because of the 12 DIP switch part. Any HAD readers willing to investigate and weigh in? The game is afoot!

[thanks to Dave D. who sent this in]

171 thoughts on “A Black Box Mystery

  1. Didn’t they just make a movie about this box? Only you pushed the easy button and bad things happened to someone across the world and then you got a million bucks for pushing the button?

    Don’t push the button!

    I thinks it’s a rfid unit similar to what the electrical companies use to read your meter from the street

  2. Havent read all the comments but i’m going to take a stab:

    pcb from a garage door remote control, with two wires running to it from the pic that ‘press’ the button periodically. As there are only two wires its not going to be code scanning or data logging or anything cool like that, just simply making somone’s door go up and down intermittently / all day.

  3. Henrique has got it. Someone has fitted a power supply and single press circuit to a standard garage door remote and installed in in (probably) a motorbike. Flash the high-beams and it opens the door.

  4. @Spork: Yeah it’s just going to lead to redundant debates, trolling, and flaming.

    I made a educated guess in my last comments based on data sheets only I’ve found so far. I’m bored with it though so I’ll just give links and not read the comments anymore..


    Y22758C:doesn’t exist it’s a clock-gen

    CTS 206-12:http://www.pscelex.com/files/datasheets/1523.pdf

    It goes to a bigger circuit, a reviever bus and and then that power/filter bus

  5. Ok, I’m tired of everyone “guessing”. This is NOT rfid. The particular chip in this “circuit” determines if each pin on the chip is high or low, and creates a “code” to transmit based on this data. (hence the dip switches)

    This is what it USED to be.

    (genie 912, later revision, garage door opener)

    First off. Like I said previously, the button is shorted to force an “always on” state to the microchip. As soon as power is applied, it sends it’s code and continues until power off.

    (picture of shorted pins)

    Second. Some of the pic board is not populated. This micro controller does not require an external oscillator. If one is not present, it can use it’s own internal RC oscillator. This can be seen in the following picture.

    Although the RC oscillator fluctuates with temperature, it is close enough.

    Finally. Since the button is in the always on state, the transmitter can be triggered by simply throwing it’s pins to power and ground. Looking up the L7809CV Voltage regulator, it can be seen that it will take a input up to 35 volts before breakdown. The suggested test input from ST is 15V. This device was run off of external power (notice the notch in the case). There were, however, no additional “trigger” wires for cool things like detecting headlights. This circuit is strictly time/RNG based.

    Please quit dreaming of how you wish it was a secret government project or an RFID spoofer. It makes a garage door go up and down dependent on the timing code on that little pic!

    PS: Someone that has a something awful account, repost this. I don’t have a account there and don’t intend to pay to let them know what is in their magic black box.


  6. looks like a garage door security code cracker for an older garage door.

    i recognize the rf stuff as being from a garage door opener from the 80’s and the switch as the way to set the code.

    the other chip is probably is a sequencer that does all the combination of codes.

    or a device to emulate rfid tags for the purpose of wreaking havoc on rfid based inventory control.

  7. I know what it is, and I don’t believe anyone else has pinned it yet. At least not from all the posts I’ve read.

    The device is a Fox transmitter, albeit a simple one.

    Here is one example.


    Ham radio operators would know of these devices. One of the activities in their hobby is something called a fox hunt, or something along that line.


    They hide one of these transmitters that periodically send a burst of specific radio data at low power. The seekers use radio direction finding equipment to locate the hidden transmitter, such as this device.

    The only thing it’s missing is a power source, which I’m sure is probably a 9 volt battery, as some people here have expected.

    I’m suprised the hider didn’t include some contact information in the box in case someone found it (such as the case of them finding it on a street…)

  8. In the left side is an osscilator. Easy to recognize so is clear a radio remote for something.
    Even with a lot of photos or reading PIC code is impossible to tell what for is, the important thing is where is the receiver set ?

  9. It looks similar to an old wireless alarm system I had. There were remote modules that were similar in size and had a single 9 volt battery inside. There was a pair of wires poking out each box which got connected to a N/C alarm device.

  10. Ah, a variation on a hack-a-day theme… Instead of “Where’s the hack?””, we’ve opted for “What’s the hack?”. Cute.

    No idea what it is. I think I may build one of these out of random crap just to drive people nuts.

  11. the_truth has it 100% correct. It is a garage door opener that turns on and off at a predetermined rate. I have read some ridiculous stuff about it cycling through codes and even being a “fox transmitter”, this is all false. You guys are letting your imaginations get the best of you. look at the facts and stop talking out of your ass.

  12. I say it’s either a garage door opener or an RFID emulator maybe for defeating the RFID immobilizers in cars.

    There was a guy in Europe who would specialize in stealing newer luxury cars that had the push button start feature as he could steal one with out having to smash up the steering column or do other things to it that would attract attention.

    Though I figure one would need at least at least a fast arm processor to break the crypto unless someone found a short cut to reconstructing the key from captured packets.

  13. rybitski:

    So why can’t it be a fox transmitter? It’s obvious it’s built from a garage door opener, but it’s not obvious that it is still used as one.

    Turning on and off at preprogrammed or random intervals seems to fit the bill, and the external battery is an odd choice for an “annoying the neighbour” hack. (I don’t really see the need for a PIC if you want to control your own garage door.)

    Also there’s the smaller PIC “control” board. Anyone recognize it as a kit / prototyping board, or is it custom made? If the latter, it’s pretty well designed for a prank.

  14. A Garage door opener with a LED that blinks every 10 seconds? I doubt that. I’d rather go for tracking beacon. The Antenna looks like it’s made for a rather low frequency – somewhere around or below 1MHz probably. The LED indicates that it still is working.

    Does it have scratches on it from the road? Does it have remains of glue from duct tape on the case? Maybe it’s a tracking device that fell off a driving car.

  15. Its a garage door opener with an external timer hack is my guess. For what I dont know. I did think it could be a door opener with an external ic to simulate the dip switch settings and thus scan through frequencies in order to bruit force open doors but the wiring link is not there tho it seems like a better end project.

  16. Joel:

    I think you’re exactly on target – this is a fox transmitter (think fox and hounds).

    As a microcontroller engineer and an amateur radio operator, this makes perfect sense. (Why didn’t I think of this???)


    The controller board is as populated as it needs to be, and there would be enough demand for such boards to produce (and sell) bare boards or kits. The controller has an internal oscillator, so it does not need a crystal. As a controller for a fox transmitter, it simply turns the transmitter on for a few seconds every minute.

    For everyone else:

    One of the resources some amateurs work to develop is the ability to find a transmitter that is transmitting (by design, malice or accident). They develop the equipment and techniques to find low power transmitter anywhere in a large city (think Los Angles). The situation can be as simple as someone putting their bag of groceries on their garage door transmitter, or as dire as locating someone’s rescue beacon in the wilderness.

    The fact that a real garage door transmitter was used also fits – amateurs love to modify things to new purposes.

  17. My only thought for this is some sort of DIY vehicle tracking device.

    But at the people saying “hahaha, check to see if it’s a bomb? Wuss”.

    I have a friend who blew himself up. Dead. Closed casket funeral. Because he was stupid enough to cut open a explosive left on the road without poking around first. So…yeah. Fuck you guys.

  18. It’s not a bomb, it’s just a bomb trigger xD
    Well, perhaps someone wired a bomb to the garage door of the victim and this transmitter fell from the trigger car because it wasn’t taped.

  19. I have officially lost all faith in this community. I figured that people might actually read comments instead of posting moronic things such as wifi sniffer, garage door code sniffer (notice 2 wires, not 12), secret experimental circuit, Rfid(no large inductive coils), nor some amazing circuit that involves blue smoke or pixie dust. The idea of a foxhunt transmitter is possible and I give credit for that. The rest of you people are a black mark against the hardware hacking community. Good bye and good riddance hack a day users!

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