Red box (phreaking)

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A red box is a phreaking device that generates tones to simulate inserting coins in pay phones, thus fooling the system into completing free calls. In the United States, a nickel is represented by one tone, a dime by two, and a quarter by a set of 5 tones. Any device capable of playing back recorded sounds can potentially be used as a red box. Commonly used devices include modified Radio Shack tone dialers, personal MP3 players, and audio-recording greeting cards.

Contents

Technical details

United States

The tones are made by playing back 1700 Hz and 2200 Hz tones together. One 66 ms tone represents a nickel. A set of 2 66 ms tones separated by 66 ms intervals represent a dime, and a quarter is represented by a set of 5 33 ms tones with 33 ms pauses.

The system that handles these tones is called the Automated Coin Toll Service, or ACTS. However, since ACTS has been phased out of service in much of the United States, combined with the integration of acoustic filters into many payphone handsets, the practice of red boxing is rarely possible anymore. In some areas served by Verizon in the northeast United States, it is still possible to red box local toll calls just outside of your NPA (area code), or while on the line with a live operator.

United Kingdom

In the UK, a 1000 Hz tone for 200 ms represents a 10p coin, and 1000 Hz for 350 ms represents a 50p coin.

See also

References

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