The ol’ Blue Boxing. Good times, good times.

The ol’ Blue Boxing. Good times, good times.


For many of us first-gen hacker types (yes, I’m that old. Shut up.), blue boxing was our introduction to hardware hacking. It was never the illegal, rip-off aspects for me, it was proving that you could build something that exploited a vulnerability in a system; to trick it to do something it wasn’t intended to do (the very definition of hacking). In fact, I owe much of my career in tech journalism to phone phreaking. It was a phreak box project in a zine in the mid-90s that inspired me to create my site Street Tech, to cover the burgeoning hardware hacking/DIY electronics scene.

So, I got a huge kick out of seeing this Project MF Blue Box project. It’s a site with instructions for creating a classic Blue Box. What good does such an analog phone hacking technology do you in the digital age? Not much (except the box tones are fun to record, store, and play back), unless you call the Project MF server, where they’ve set up a working simulation of the analog SF/MF signaling used in the public switched telephone networks before the early ’90s. Tres retro!

I’m tempted to build this awesome box. It’s based on the infamous Blue Box depicted in in 1971 Esquire article on phreaking. This modern version is built around the PIC 12F683 MCU. The folks from Project MF Blue Box gave out free PCBs for this project at Last HOPE, so you may already have the board. They’re also selling boards and pre-programmed chips. See the site for details.

The Project MF Blue Box

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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