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 hackaday.io 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 hackaday.io. 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”
Signed up for this a while ago. Wonder whether it’ll reach Europe at all =)
A lot of trouble? Especially if parts from a clock are included.
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.
It won’t be stolen by a recipient but likely by USPS , the federalis will believe it’s bomb making materials and go question the last sender
USPS? No. The mail is astonishingly secure. International travel is another question entirely, which is why I wanted to go around the Earth before going outside the US.
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.
Godspeed. I wish there were more things like this that fostered trust and respect amongst strangers.
Unified groups of anonymous internetters make me smile
I wish i had something worth signing up with, but my little bench is so poor i really don’t have anything to offer. Maybe a Beaglebone Black?
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.
STOKED! Glad this is happening!
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?
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…?
Maybe we should get more than one in circulation? That way more people can participate. This is bound to stimulate an awesome electronic swag exchange among hackers
Maybe a traveling inventory, kept in the case as well, I mean, if a certain part hasn’t been chosen by the last 10 recipients,
maybe it really is JUNK! B^)
Since a Large Flat Rate box is now being used, bonus items could be used outside of the HF box. Such as a logo’d T-shirt for “packing material”. Or a book or two, or both…
Thanks for the link to
Even if I never receive the HaD box, I can start a few (truckload?) of my own.
Oh, that´s a clever idea to enhance hackaday data assets value, by having people filling their profile with their physical address…
“Poste Restante” aka “General Delivery” is a valid postal address, but recipient must poll the local post office regularly, or the package will be returned to sender after a 30 days or so.
GPS tracker perhaps? (until a recipient turns it off or doesn’t replace batteries)
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.
I read that the same way… …and sort of want it to be true.
If nothing else it takes the ‘ass-hats in the world’ count down by one.
Sign me up when the bag reaches Europe. mail me.
This idea is so cool
Watch out for export controlled items.
This is actually a great point… lots of stuff makes that list (sensors, etc)
Also import duties/taxes etc. Not every countries out there have a high reasonable limit like the US.
It may be more practical to have a different box (or multiple boxes) for each country. I know I have piles of cool stuff I could throw in.
I participated in TGIMBOEJ three times actually – http://www.robotsandcomputers.com/robots/tgimboej.htm
I enjoyed it and was disappointed, but not surprised, to see the lack of trust among recipients. I’ll have to sign up for this!
I’m totally going to sign up. I have so much cool junk erm.. “treasure” to pass along. My tinker time is all but gone anymore, so I’ll pass a few gems along.
Maybe you can add hackerspaces to the list of addresses, that way you can reach more people at 1 address.
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