Red Box Math

I happened across my old tone dialer red box today and made a video about it:

I wrote on Facebook that I used it to steal a kabillion dollars from the phone company back in the day, but I think that estimate might be a little high. So I’m wondering how much I did steal by red boxing calls from pay phones.

To initiate a call, I’d have to deposit about $2.80. Then I’d have to deposit 80 cents every 3 minutes. So that’s 20 times each hour that I’d deposit 80 cents ($16.00), making the total for an hour of red boxing about $18.80. Now that’s just if I placed a call and actually stayed on for an hour, without ever hanging up. And I did that a lot, for hours at a time. But many times my calls would be short, sometimes lasting just a minute or two, but I would make calls one after the other. Let’s say I did THAT for an hour, placing a new call every five minutes – $2.80 x 12 = $33.60.

Hmmm, that still doesn’t sound very impressive. There were times in the early 90’s that I really did spend hours every single day sitting at pay phones and dialing random phone number, party lines, phone company news lines and talking to friends. I red boxed before work, after work and during breaks. At certain jobs, like at Circle K, even during work when there were no customers around. I could have easily spent 5 hours a day at a pay phone, racking up between $94.00 and $168.00 each day. This lasted from 1991 until maybe 1995.

So if I red boxed 5 hours a day for an entire year and averaged only 1 call per hour, I would have stolen $34,310. ($94.00 x 365 days) If I was making short calls lasting about 5 minutes, it would be more like $61,320, but I’ll go with the lower number since I’m sure I took occasional days off. Four straight years of that would be $137,240. This is assuming I only called within the U.S. and Canada, but I did call overseas quite a bit for a while and those calls would take about $8.00 – $15.00 to initiate.

I guess 1994 or 1995 is when I really got into using credit cards and phone cards, though, so my red boxing use went way down after those years since using calling cards was easier and less of a pain since I didn’t have to enter more money every 3 minutes. 1994 was the year I racked up a $15,000 phone bill with GTE while living under a fake name. So I guess I wasted a lot more money without a red box than I did with one.

I was hoping to find out that I red boxed some astronomical amount like $1,000,000, but I guess the most I can possibly claim is $137,240.00.

Speaking of YouTube videos, I’ve been making a lot of them lately since R0xy and Tombstone have been getting me to respond to their vlogs. Here are some of the latest:

The oldest phone in my house

Using an old ATM in Corvallis

My son dancing in a Super Mario costume

Shutting off TVs at PAX