United Phone Losers
Red Boxing for Dummies
issue no. 4 - March 7, 1999
this issue written by linear



In this issue, I will show you how to make a red box using all the methods I currently know of that work fairly decent. Many of these ideas I have taken from the Phone Losers of America (PLA), 2600 Hacker Quarterly, gathered from friends, and some of them just amazingly spawned out of my asshole. So bare with me now....because i'm still sore.....

What Is Red Boxing?

When you use a payphone, you have to put in change to pay for your call, hence the name, payphone. No shit, right? Well, when you put in your change, the payphone makes sure the coins are real, if they are, it produces a serries of beeps to let the phone know that you payed. 5 beep for a Quarter, two beeps for a dime, and one beep for a nickel. Now, the red box makes these same tones, bypassing the whole coin part....so, you get free calls from payphones.

Making A Red Box

There are tons of ways to make a red boxs. I will explain the ways I currently know of.

Making a Red Box With a Radio Hack Pocket Tone Dialer
This section I will just copy directly from a PLA issue, because of two reasons.... A) I never used this method and know nothing about it, and B) I'm lazy. This method is somewhat complicated for you newbies, so i suggest one of the other methods.... I never used this method cause I don't wanna screw up my Pocket Tone Dialer.

Converting A Tone Dialer Into A Red Box:
I believe all the credit for this section of the phile should go to Noah Clayton who originally wrote this for 2600 magazine.
 You will need:
  • Radio Shack pocket tone dialer model #43-141 ($24.95 each)
  • Three AAA batteries
  • Soldering Iron
  • Small regular and phillips screwdriver
  • Wire clippers
  • A 6.5536 MHz crystal
Be sure to get Radio Shack's NEWEST type of tone dialer. The old ones were gold and brown and looked pretty ugly. The new ones are black and the corners are rounded off a little more. They also seem to be more water-resistant and it seems to be easier to fit the new crystal into these models.

You can either order the crystal through Radio Shack or buy it from an electronic's store. Buying it through Radio Shack is a real bitch because you have to wait two weeks for them to order it and most employees don't know what you're talking about when you ask for it. I've had them INSIST that they can't order that crystal for me because they don't carry it. If you live in the St. Louis area as I do, I suggest GateWay Electronics on Page Av in Missouri. They have a knowledgable staff and their crystals are only about three bucks a piece. (Compared to Radio Shack's $4.99 each!)

Place the dialer on the table keypad side down and speaker side up. Remove the battery cover and all batteries. Use the phillips screwdriver to remove all four screws on the back of the dialer. Now slide the flathead screw-driver along the side to separate the two halves of the dialer. Slide the speaker half underneath the keypad so you don't break off the wires.

On the left hand side down near the battery compartment, you'll see a silver cylinder looking component. This is the crystal you want to remove. Pull it  up with your fingers and break away all the glue that's holding it down. Use your soldering iron and un-solder it from the circuit board. You can throw this crystal away as it has no real use in life.

Now the hard part. The new crystal you're putting in is twice as big as the old one so it's kinda hard to get it in there. There's a few capacitors that you can bend over to make some more room. You'll also have to bend the leads to your new crystal inward a little. Solder the new crystal in place of the old one and you're all set. Snap the two casing halves back together being careful not to pinch any wires. Put the screws back in and insert your three AAA batteries.

A good idea is to wrap the crystal with scotch tape or electrical tape. This will prevent contact with other components since the crystal is so big. You could also simply put a piece of paper under the crystal.

One additional thing you can do it totally remove the LED light. The only thing this light is good for is running down your batteries really quick. If you use the unit without the light connected, you NEVER have to turn the unit's power off and the batteries will last for a few years before you need to replace them.

Programming Your Red Box:
First you'll have to program your box's memory to make the right tones. You'll be using the three priority buttons on the top of your unit. P1 will be your  quarter, P2 your dime and P3 will be the nickel. So here's how to do it:
  1. Switch the unit on. The red light in the corner should come on unless you've disconnected it.
  2. Slide the DIAL/STORE switch to the STORE mode.
  3. Press MEMORY, *, *, *, *, *, MEMORY, P1. That programs your quarter. 
  4. Press MEMORY, *, *, MEMORY, P2. That programs your dime.
  5. Press MEMORY, *, MEMORY, P3. And that's the nickel.
  6. Slide the DIAL/STORE switch back into the DIAL mode and you're ready to start phreakin'!

Try pushing the priority buttons now. Each one will emit a different high-pitched chirping noise. This is what the phone hears when you deposit money into a pay phone. If you've ever red boxed with a taperecorder or heard the actual pay phone tones before, you'll notice that these tones are slightly slower than the real ones. Don't worry, the pay phone can't ever tell the difference and you rarely find an operator that can.

One of the most common problems I've had with my red boxes over the years, is that the tones will stop working in the middle of trying to put in your money or they'll break up, giving you a live operator. This could be because you did a bad job soldering the new crystal in. More commonly, the contacts on the power (or the DIAL/STORE switch) have bent the wrong way, causing them not to touch the circuit board anymore.

To fix that, open the unit and bend the contact in the switches out a little. Not too much or they'll break when you use the switch. If you've removed the light in your unit, there's really no reason to ever turn it off so you could glue the power switch into the "ON" position.
....okay, remember, I DIDN'T WRITE THAT!!! RedBoxChilliPepper from PLA did! I took it WITHOUT permission too....Sorry RBCP

Making a Red Box With Hallmark Cards
I don't know if these are still around, but I will tell you about them anyway. A while back, Hallmark released these cards that let you record a personalized message in them, so whe you open the card, a recording of your voice would say something like "Happy Birthday, Uncle Billy" or whatever. Well, the thing about these is that the quality of the recording is pretty damn good, and the actual chip that records everything is really small, once you rip away the paper and plastic from the actual card. If one of your friends has a red box, you can borrow it and record the tones on to the card, if you don't have friends, there are MANY computer programs written by phonelosers like us that have Red Box tones and you can record it off those.

Making a Red Box With a Tape Recorder/Walkman
A possibility is to record the tones with a tape recorder and play them into the phone with a walkman. Like the Hallmark cards, you can record the tones from a friend's Red Box, or a computer program (like WinPhreak). Although, I don't suggest this because the quality of the tones will be really shitty and probably won't work.

Making a Red Box With a CD Burner
If you have a CD Burner (CD Rewriter/CDR) all you need to do is get the tones on your computer in .wav format and burn them on a CD as tracks! Then you just need to get a Discman and take that to your local payphone! This is the method I use and it works great!!! If you can't find them, I can send you the Tones in .wav format. Just e-mail me at lord_linear@juno.com and I'll do my best to hook you up.

Making a Red Box a Rio Portable MP3 Player
If you know what an MP3 is, you probably know what the Rio Player is. But for those of you who don't.......An MP3 is a sound file of CD quality that you can play like a CD track on your computer. Many people use this to bootleg CDs on their Computer. Now the Rio Player lets you take MP3s off your computer and listen to them while your away from the computer. It works much like a Discman only it's a bit smaller. But the thing currently runs about $200, and that's too high for my taste, so needless to say, I haven't tried it. But if a CD will work, an MP3 will. Just find the tones in .wav format, convert them to MP3s, and put them on your Rio. Now you have a handy red box.

What Kind of Payphones Can I Red Box?

Once again, I'll let RBCP explain this....

Usually any GTE or Bell phone will work, Bell including Southwestern Bell, U.S.West, Ameritech, Pacific Bell, etc. You'll know it's a Bell or GTE phone because their logo will be on the phone. I've noticed in some areas like Pacific Bell and Ameritech the phones are rigged so that no sound can enter the mouthpiece of the phone until the call is connected, rendering your redbox useless. A way around this is to dial "0" and have the operator dial the call for you.

Privately Owned pay phones are those ugly phones with some kind of generic logo on them that means some old fat local guy owns it and convinces innocent store owners to install his phone instead of a Bell phone, promising him bigger profits. Not a hard promise to keep, considering a local call sometimes costs 75 cents, they sometimes won't let you dial toll free numbers and long distance rates are twice as high (or more) than AT&T which is pretty bad. The best thing to do when you find a Private pay phone is to squirt a lot of ketchup or mustard into the coin slot and find a Bell/GTE phone somewhere.

---That was from RBCP

How Do I Red Box?

From most areas, all you have to do is play the tones directly into the mouthpeice of the phone, and the phone the thinks you paid. You then proceed to call like you actually did pay. But in some areas, the phone might be rigged so you can't do this, and you might have to call the operator and bullshit them a little....

OPER:    "GTE, this is Jeremy, How may I help you?
YOU:     "The payphone I'm using is missing the 6 key, can you dial a number
          for me?"
OPER:    "Sure, I'm a gullible dumbfuck....what's the number"
YOU:     "654-0097"
OPER:    "Okay, Please insert 35 cents"
RED BOX: "Beep Beep Beep Beep Beep.....Beep Beep"
OPER:    "Thank you."
YOU:     "No, thank YOU!"

Here's a little more on how to Red Box From RedBoxChilliPepper over at PLA (hell, I've put so much other shit from him in this file, a little more won't hurt....):

Making A Long Distance Call:
Okay, here's the fun part- Calling anywhere in the entire world and not paying a cent for it. Pick up the phone and dial the number you want to call in the fashion 1-AREA CODE-NUMBER. For example, if you want to call the White House in Washington D.C., dial 1-202-456-1414.

You'll hear a click, then a computer voice will say, "Please deposit $2.85." (The exact amount differs with the location and time of day.)  Mutter, "Fuck you, AT&T..." to yourself, switch on your red box, hold the speaker of the red box FLUSH with the mouthpiece of the pay phone and press P1 for your quarters. Pause for a split second in between each quarter because if you go too fast, you'll get a live operator wanting to know what the problem is. You are able to go 20 cents over the amount requested and that will be credited to your call.

After you've put in enough "money", the computerized voice will say in a cheerful, unsuspecting voice, "Thank you for using AT&T!" and your call is put through. Every few minutes the voice will come back and ask for more money.

International Calling:
Your red box can also be used to call your loved ones in other countries, although, it's annoying to do because you HAVE to use a live operator and your conversation will be inturrupted every THREE MINUTES by a voice asking for  another two bucks. But if you really need to call overseas...

Dial 011-COUNTRY CODE-CITY CODE-PHONE NUMBER. An operator will ask you how you want to bill your call. Tell her you'll be using the spare change you make as a waiter and MoogooGuawkcaMeemay's Chineese restaurant to pay for your call. For best results, don't do this:

OPERATOR: "Okay, sir, please deposit your money now..."
YOU: "Okay, ma'am, I'm going to use nickels...(beep)...That was one nickel.
     Did you get that alright? Okay, here's my second nickel...(beep)...okay,
     there's two nickels, that makes 10 cents. How much more to go? $9.10?
     Okay...(beep)...I'm up to 15 cents now, right? Okay, good...(beep)...
     alright, there's another one...Hey, here's a penny on the ground! Can I
     use a penny? No? Okay, here goes lucky nickel number five...(beep)...did
     you get that? Okay....etc, etc, etc."

The call will be completed like this: The operator will tell you that the call will cost (for example) $7.35. She'll tell you to deposit $3.00, you red box three dollars to her and she connects the call. When the overseas person answers the phone she'll say, "This is the United States AT&T operator, I have an international call for you, could you please hold while billing is completed?" Then the operator will ask you for another $3.00 and then the remaining $1.35. After all that you'll be connected only to be inturrupted every three minutes by an operator asking for more money.

If you don't want the person you are calling to know you're calling with coins, you can ask the operator if you can deposit all your money right now and THEN be connected overseas. They don't like to do this (because you could lose all your "money" if they're not home) but they will do it if you ask.

Local Calls:
To red box a local call it takes about a minute or two longer than if you really paid for it, but those quarters add up so it's definately worth it. Pick up the phone and dial zero. Tell the operator that you want to make a local call. If she tells you just to put in a quarter and dial the number, tell her, "Well, ma'am, there's shit all over the keypad here and all the buttons are stickin' together and I CAN'T dial it myself. The only key that works is the zero and THAT'S got this sticky blue shit all over it. Then there's a half-eatin' Twinkee shoved in the coin return and dirt all over the four and seven keys..." Keep going on and on until she asks you what number you want to dial. She'll ask you for a quarter and connect your call.

Make sure after your call connects that you hear the operator click off. Some operators are nosey and will just SIT there listening to your conversation. Once I was explaining to a friend how I placed my call and suddenly the operator starts lecturing me and telling me she's going to call security on me. (And this was about three minutes into the conversation!)

In some cities I've noticed you can trick pay phones into thinking that a local call is actually a long distance call by dialing 10288 before you dial the local number. So try dialing 10288 or 102881 before you make your local call and maybe you won't have to deal with that pesky operator. The only downside of doing this is that the call will "cost" more and you'll be inturrupted every five minutes to deposit more money.

If an operator confronts you and says, "Hey, you're not really putting in coins, that's a recording!" don't get all nervous and run from the pay phone. She'll lie and tell you that security is on the way to the pay phone to put you in jail but she's full of it. Instead, piss her off by explaining to her in detail exactly what you're doing and how you're doing it. If she gets an attitude with you, ask to speak with her supervisor or Service Asisstant. This pisses her off to no end. When connected with the supervisor, tell her exactly what you think of her and the company she works for. The worse thing they can really do is shut off the pay phone.

(once again, that was from RBCP)


linear, United Phone Losers and/or it's members WILL NOT be held responsible for what you do with the information within this text document. We cannot take responsibility for your ignorance, besides, we can barely take responsibility for our own.


Well, I hope I covered everything. If you feel I left something out, or you think something is incorrect, feel free to contact me via email: lord_linear@juno.com