This Project Will Be Stolen

What do you get when you take a flight case from Harbor Freight, fill it up with random electronics junk, and send it off to a stranger on the Internet? The travelling hacker box. It’s a project I’m putting together on to emulate a swap meet through the mail.

The idea is simple – take a box of random electronics junk, and send it off to a random person on This person will take a few items out of the box, replace those items with something sitting on their workbench, and send it off to the next person. This is repeated until the box is stolen.

Has something like this been done before? Yes, yes it has. The Great Internet Migratory Box of Electronics Junk was a thing back in the ‘aughts, with Hackaday (via Eliot) receiving a box (code name: Rangoon) from [John Park], before sending it off to [Bre Pettis]. The box subsequently disappeared. There were many migratory boxes of electronics junk, but most didn’t travel very far. Already the Travelling Hacker Box has 2,525 miles on its odometer, and plans are in the works for travelling 25,000 miles – the circumference of the Earth – before heading out of the United States.

If you’re wondering what’s in the box, here’s a mostly complete inventory. With the exception of a few items from the swag bag from the Open Hardware Summit last weekend, it’s mostly random electronics stuff I’ve had sitting around on my workbench and desk. The first recipient grabbed a few dev boards and replaced them with a Teensy LC and enough tubes to make a small amplifier.

The current plan for the Travelling Hacker Box is to bounce across the United States for the circumference of the Earth until departing for more exotic lands. There are people queued up to receive the box from across the world, and the box will eventually be hitting Europe, India, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Everyone is welcome to participate as it is passed from hacker to hacker as a migratory box of electronic toys.

30 thoughts on “This Project Will Be Stolen

    1. Yeah, I mean – you see all those devboards? The only difference between this and a bomb is flashing one of them with a countdown timer software.
      Also, IT IS IN A SUITCASE! Just like the bomb those brave teachers have disarmed recently in Texas.

      1. Wish that were still the case. My grandfather was a postal carrier for more than 35 years, back when people still knew their postal worker by name. He would come home on some days with 2-3 pies people would give him along his route. now..

        Last friday my wife got her usual delivery of medical supplies in the mail. It was supposed to include a new blood glucose meter for her to test and a multi-clicks ‘poker’. When i pulled the package out of our LOCKED mailbox, the envelope was ripped open along the side. The meter had been removed and the back cover was stolen. The bubble wrap that it was wrapped in was stuffed back in the envelope. The multi-clicks was simply taken. Beware you’re postal carriers.

      1. Well run on over to a radioshack or similar store, get some miscellaneous components and randomly put them into small containers, then send it on its way.

        If it never gets to you, you will still have a plethora of interesting components to use.

  1. I was actually thinking along these lines, but for something a little different. I’ve seen some manufacturers send samples around from person to person, for the purpose of getting PR and letting the users touch/play/experience the device. I’m into audio and I’ve seen some audio players, dacs and stuff like that go ‘on tour’ in a controlled manner and it seemed to work out pretty well even thoughit has to be well managed and if the valuable item gets lost or broken then you have to be ready to deal with that aspect.

    I have some items that I’d like to get review on but simply showing it in a photo is not enough; its experiencial. so I have been considering something like this where I could get people to sign up to try out the device(s) and then send them on their way to the next person on the list. for things that need to be tried in-person, maybe it can be a viable strategy. but it does sound like it could be a management headache, tracking it all and worrying about the device’s condition, if it breaks, how to get it fixed (if its hand built one-off, that’s even harder) and so on. for a mass-produced item its not a big deal but for a one-off, I wonder if this is something to be considered more or dismissed as ‘not practical’.

    anyway, this article made me think about that concept again. a mail-around review item. has anyone, here, done that with a device or product they designed?

    1. right…? like, say, from builders of things that are potential candidates for becoming “products” who don’t necessarily have the means/resources to arrange the logistics of something like this on their own…? So they could make, say, three such physical prototypes, and send them around to people who could test-drive not only the systems, but also things like their user-manuals, etc…?

  2. Have people pay $20 to get the box and returned to them when they send it on. May help keeping it rolling (although eventually it will be filled with junk that noone needs :)).

    p.s. BTW, did I read it right in the article – Bre Pettis stole the Rangoon box? :) It all makes sense now.

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