Tone Dialer Red Box
New Tone Dialer Possibilities
Tape Recorders & Walkmans
Hallmark Cards
Toys & Other Voice Recorders
Your PC's Sound Blaster

Using a Radio Shack Tone Dialer is by far the most popular method of building a red box in the 90's. There are several different variations of the tone dialer red box, all of which will be explained below.

Many people ask me what the legitimate use of a tone dialer is. Tone dialers are used to access touch tone voicemails and voice menus when you're calling from a rotary dial phone. Even though rotary dial phones are very close to obsolete now, tone dialers still come in handy to store commonly dialed phone numbers in. They can also be useful to a phreak when a phone disables it's keypad or has a lock on it to prevent long distance dialing.

The biggest problem I've run into while explaining this method is the different variations of tone dialers themselves. See, Radio Shack knows that certain people buy these tone dialers for the sole purpose of screwing the phone company. They've come out with two new models of the "33 Memory Pocket Tone Dialer" in just the last decade.

The first upgrade was a definate improvement for the underground. The circuit board remained the same but the outer casing was sleeker looking, a bit smaller, more water proof and made it easier to install the over-sized red box crystal.

But in the last year or so (1996-1997), they'd upgraded once again, this time to stop us evil phreaks from modifying it for illegal use. Personally, I've never encountered one of these new models so I can't really tell too much about it except for what I've heard. Supposedly, the crystal still exists but they've disguised it as a capacitor. I've heard a dozen different stories about the placement of this new capacitor so I can only say that most people have told me it's in the same place as the old crystal always was and it has Z3.58M written on it.

Below is a list of the different kinds of tone dialers available from Radio Shack. If you have further questions about the different models, Radio Shack can be contacted by dialing 1-800-THE-SHACK.

43-145 This is a cheap tone dialer with no memory presets on it. These dialers cost $16.99 and can be modified, but without the memory presets you won't be able to make quarter tones, just nickels which can be a little time-consuming. But if you want to save a lousy 10 bucks, this is the way to go.

43-141 This is the original 33 memory pocket tone dialer. This model was brown and very ugly-70's looking compared to the newer models. This one will work for red boxing just as good as the new ones. Radio Shack stopped making this model in 1994.

43-146 This is the current 33 memory tone dialer which sells for $24.99. Both the newest "hack-proof" model and the 1995- model share the same catalog number, contrary to popular belief. The crystal in this model has been disguised to trick people into thinking that you can no longer use it for illegal purposes.


You will need:

  • Radio Shack pocket tone dialer model #43-141 or #43.146 ($24.99 each)
  • Three AAA batteries
  • Soldering Iron
  • Small regular and phillips screwdriver
  • Wire clippers A 6.5536 MHz crystal
  • Place the dialer on the table keypad side down and speaker side up. Remove the battery cover and all the batteries. Use the phillips screwdriver to remove all four screws on the back of the dialer. If you've got the new model, there will be six screws. Now slide the flathead screwdriver 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 speaker 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. Before you put the screws back in, you might want to put the batteries in and make sure that when you press buttons, the red box is making noise. If it isn't adjust the crystal slightly and try again.

    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. When doing this, I also solder the power switch into the "on" position and remove the switch itself. But only attempt all this if you're comfortable with your soldering skills.



    Now that your dialer is put back together and the batteries are in, test it out by hitting a few keys. You should hear high-pitched touch tones. The "star" key on the dialer is your coin key. By hitting this key quickly one time, you create a nickel tone. Two times makes a dime tone and five times equals a quarter tone. Nobody can hit the button fast enough to make a quarter tone so you have to program 5 hits into one of the memory locations.

    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 go.

    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 it's rare to find a live operator who can.

    If you want to program in $1.00, it's best to use this programming string: MEMORY, *, *, *, *, *, 0, *, *, *, *, *, 0, *, *, *, *, *, 0, *, *, *, *, *, MEMORY, P3.

    This will make $1.00 go in a lot faster than if you'd used the PAUSE feature because "0" is being used as a substitute for PAUSE. (The phone just ignores the 0.) Don't use this string on a live operator, though! Thanks to Even in California for giving me that idea. Using the P3 location will replace your nickel tone.


    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 or remove the power switch and solder the appropriate contacts into the "on" position.


    If you're the type of person who just has to have a tone dialer AND a red box then you can have both without having to carry around two seperate units.

    1. Buy a small two-position switch like Radio Shack's model #275-407.
    2. On one end solder the old crystal, on the other end solder your 6.5536 crystal and in the middle solder two small wires, each about 4" long.
    3. Solder the other ends of the two wires to where the old crystal used to be.

    Pretty easy, aye? You can put the two wires through one of the vent holes in the back of the unit. On my red box, I took the plastic piece off the back of the battery cover (You know, where you're supposed to write the memory numbers?) and electrical taped the switch down. It actually doesn't stick out hardly at all and looks fairly professional.

    Now you can switch between red box and tone dialer. You can store your stolen calling card numbers in the other memory locations or use the touch tones to get free calls on those damn privately owned pay phones.


    Newfound Radio Shack Tone Dialer Takes Phreaking World By Storm

    Cat. No. 65-721

    Inside sources in the electronic-store giant Radio Shack informed me today of an acquisition of an advanced tone dialer. The dialer, which is dubbed "Personal Data Directory with tone dialer," presents new possibilities for the phreaking community, which has heretofore used Radio Shack "33-Number Memory Pocket Tone Dialers" (Cat. No. 43-146) to create a device called a Red Box. The new tone dialer's catalog number is 65-721. The newer dialer's advantages over No. 43-146 include an LCD display, requires one less "AAA" battery, stores 75 entries which include a name and two phone numbers, and a built-in calculator, to name a few.

    When I recieved this information, the Radio Shack Sales Associate also informed me that there was only one more dialer available. So, after a mad dash for my wallet and keys, which took an hour and a half, I rushed down to the store and bought 65-721. My luck was very great today; apparently Radio Shack is having a Christmastime sale, so the normally-40-dollar dialer was discounted at the beautiful price of $24.95. I seem to recall paying as much for the normal tone dialer.

    I got home and popped the box open and, frankly, the dialer is fantastic sexy keen. It is physically smaller than the regualar tone dialer, but upon inspection of the inside of the unit, there is ample room for a larger crystal than the stock 3.58 -- it will be very easy to convert these dialers into Red Boxes. I plan on installing a switch between crystals so I can use the dialer normally. Whether or not the device will properly operate with the 6.5 crystal is unknown (this thing is a little more complicated than your average tone dialer), but I have a feeling it will. And what better way to display your X-mas colors than to build a Red box? Happy phreaking.


    If you can't afford to make a nice tone dialer red box or you don't have any soldering experience, then you might want to try using a tape recorder or walkman as a red box. There are several different ways to record the tones.


    1. The easiest way for a novice to record tones is to put them on your answering machine. Hopefully your answering machine is of fair quality and uses standard sized tapes. Turn on your machine & go find a Bell/GTE pay phone. Call your house and after the beep, deposit about $3.00 worth of quarters. After you hang up, all the quarters should come back. Now go home and you've got red box tones on your answering machine.

    2. Radio Shack sells two types of telephone recording devices. One is a suction cup that sticks onto the back of your phone's handset and records the conversation. These cost about $4. (Those are also sold at Sears) The other is an automatic conversation recorder which costs $15 and plugs directly into the modular jack on your phone and into the "mic" jack on your tape recorder. Buy one of these.

    Use the same method as recording them onto your answering machine, but you'll have to have a friend pick up your phone at home and start the tape recorder. Then you deposit the $3. You could also use the suction cup to call a pay phone right next to another pay phone and do it all yourself.


    Hallmark has these greeting cards that actually let you record a message for your loved ones so when grandma opens the card she hears your voice saying, "Merry Christmas, Grandma Edna!" Then Grandma Edna will drop the card in horror, thinking that she's gone completely nuts and probably die of a heart attack.

    The first thing you should do after you've shoplifted a few of these cards is flip the card over and check for the Hallmark logo. Then smile to yourself and feel all warm inside. (Don't you hate those cheesey commercials?)

    Hallmark cards are popular for red boxing because of their high-quality sound and extremely compact size once you've ripped all the card and plastic away. You can record your red box tones on this chip and then conceal the whole mess anywhere you want and you'll have a tiny red box to use. If you want, you can even replace the microphone with an input jack to help your tones record better.

    You can also replace the switches and hide it just about anywhere. Imagine a red box Marlboro box or a pack of gum or you could even sew it into the sleve of your jacket. The possibilities are endless.

    Rumor has it that most gift shops have quit selling these cards. If the gift shop is out of them, look around at other stores. They're out there somewhere.


    These days you can walk into any department store or even grocery stores and find endless red boxing possibilities. Everything you see has a sound chip in it. Here are just a few more ideas to look for:

    Memo Minders: These voice reminders can record tones and are extremely small. You can either buy one that fits in your pocket or you can buy one that fits on your key chain. In case you're surrounded by telco security, the F.B.I., local police and AT&T's top officials while you're at a pay phone, you can easily press the "MEMO ERASE" button to get rid of the evidence, though the police might shoot you when they see you go for the erase button.

    Picture Frames: Yes, talking picture frames. You can usually find these in the larger gift-type stores such as JC Penny and Sears. These picture frames have a small speaker hidden on the front next to a button that you press to hear a personalized message from whoever is in the picture. When you press the button on the demo frame in the store, you usually hear a bunch of cursing from little kids messing around with it. The sound quality is usually good, but the price isn't. I've only seen them for around $50.

    Voice Organizers: You can find these at Office Depot and Office Max. They're just like the little pocket computer organizers but instead of using a keyboard to store items, you use your voice. Then you flip through the database, find the file you want and press play. This is useful to store different groups of coins in seperate memory locations. Such as $1.00, 25 cents, or $2.95. These are expensive but slowly going down in price.

    Toys: Go into the toy isle and you'll find plenty of toys that allow you to record messages into them. Since these are toys, though, the sound quality isn't usually the greatest. One of the better toys is called the Yak Bak which records sounds and plays sound effects. There are a million different varieties of Yak Bak's, but look for the basic, original Yak Bak because it's cheapest, doesn't have a distortion feature and lets you move a switch to lock your sound in to avoid accidental erasure.

    The PC Sound Blaster Red Box:

    There's quite a few programs for your IBM computer now that will immitate red box tones as well as the tones for other boxes. Here's how you can use your PC to red box.

    1. Disconnect your PC, monitor, sound blaster, speakers, modem (if you're red boxing to a data line), and red boxing program and carry it all over to the nearest 7-Eleven.

    2. At most of the 7-Eleven's I've been at, there's an AC outlet somewhere outside of the store. Plug all of your equipment in and turn it on. If there's no outside outlet, then ask the cashier if you can borrow their orange extension cord for a little while, explaining the you're from the Pay Phone Repair Department. To make it more believable, wear a shirt that says, "Pay Phone Repair Department."

    3. After you have all of your equipment set up and Blue Beep running, pick up the phone and dial 1+AREA CODE+NUMBER. When it asks you to deposit your money, hit the 25 cents key on your program and hold the speakers up to the pay phone's mouthpiece. Continue this until you've put in enough money.

    4. If it's a data transmission, quickly attach your accoustic coupler and run your Q-Modem program and try and connect before it hangs up. Note that you will have to call back this system every 1 minute as the pay phone mutes your sound while the "money" you put in registers. This happens a minute into the conversation.

    5. You probably won't get past step one because once you set up all that equipment on the sidewalk, one of the pan handlers, winos or drug dealers that always hang out in front of the store will stab you so they can go pawn your computer and come back to buy some MD 20/20. But at least you felt like Kevin Mitnick there for awhile, eh?