Citizen Engineer

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Citizen Engineer
Citizen engineer.jpg
Citizen Engineer logo
Format Webshow
Genre Informational, Tutorial
Origin USA
Created by Limor Fried & Phillip Torrone
Starring Limor Fried & Phillip Torrone
Language English
Producer(s) Limor Fried & Phillip Torrone
Location(s) USA
Running Time 30m
Network NA
Frequency NA
Original Airing Summer 2008
Total Seasons NA
Total Episodes 1 (+1 Extra)
Additional Information
Topics Technology, Computers, Hacking, Phreaking
Follows NA
Precedes NA
Associated Video NA

Citizen Engineer was a one-off show started in the summer of 2008 as something of a how to show aimed at those above a beginner level. The show is pioneered by Limor Fried and Phillip Torrone of Make Magazine. The first video debuted at "The Last HOPE" conference in New York City.


Citizen Engineer — Volume 1

Learn how a SIM card works (the small card inside GSM cell phones), make a SIM card reader, view deleted messages, phone book entries and clone/crack a SIM card.

Modify a retired payphone so it can be used as a home telephone and for VoIP (Skype). Then learn how to modify the hacked payphone so it accepts quarters – and lastly, use a Redbox to make “free” phone calls from the modified coin-accepting payphone.

Length: 30 minutes

KIT: Build the SIM card reader/writer clectronic kit Want to build your own SIM card reader? The SIM card reader/writer is available at Adafruit Industries, it is for experimentation and investigation of SIM & Smart cards. Once the kit is built, accompanying software can be used to read and write from the card. Together they can be used to backup stored SIM card data, recover deleted SMS's and phone contacts, examine the last 10 phone numbers dialed, etc. (Despite being called a SIM reader, it can also write to SIM cards). Source, schematics and software included.

Modifying Western Electric payphones Here are some links for more information about payphone technology:

  • Bell System Practices (essentially, the manuals for all Bell products) The BSP for payphones part 1 and part 2
  • Bell System Memorial for older payphones and newer ones
  • Mini Payphone controller part 1. And Part 2.
  • Coin relay controller

Datasheets & parts notes

  • MT8870 (and any other '8870 chips) DTMF decoder chips are available at Futurlec & BGMicro
  • The telecom relay used is Tyco IM23TS, available at Digikey
  • The DC/DC boost converter is LT1302

The Skype VOIP gateway-box used is a "USB-B2K", available online. We found that the D-Link DPH-50U used non-standard voltages and would not work with payphones (or many older phones for that matter) To make the B2K work, tip and ring were reversed (not shown in the video) since the payphone requires -48V.

Note that in this video, the phone line is connected to a VOIP box. If you're using a home phone line, leave the Black and Yellow wires disconnected ("floating") as they may be running a second line!

Citizen Engineer — Extra — The Comic Book

Overview of what’s in the new Citizen Engineer comic book

Citizen Engineer volume 01 is now a comic book/zine! Volume 01 of Citizen Engineer is available as a limited edition full color 32 page comic "SIM CARD HACKING" - the comic also comes with a SIM card reader kit! We print, trim and assemble each one on demand and they look amazing! We are doing a limited run of these, get the first printing at Adafruit Industries.

Click the cover for a web preview or visit the 01 section of Citizen Engineer for PDFs including high resolution downloads, or use the QR CODE in the comic!

Citizen Engineer volume 01 - SIM CARD HACKING comic is CC attribution-share alike 3.0. You are encouraged to share it and also print your own, if you'd like to support Citizen Engineer and future videos/comics get a comic/kit!


Written, filmed & directed by Limor Fried & Phillip Torrone

Electronics projects - Limor Fried & Phillip Torrone

Intro and title graphics

Robert Hodgin, Flight404 "Solar with Lyrics" - made with Processing (open source programming).

Music (made with the x0xb0x, the open source TB-303 clone)

Mindblock - Ferrapsylix / Troy Sheets.

Live Jam - Resonator.

Easter Acid - Rusuden.

The Man with the Funky 303 - EvilXSystems.

Crisp Acid Day - Ceedub.

Fear the Robots - Jalcide.


Series User Link Notes
Citizen Engineer - Complete Series Famicoman Also contains extra comic and comic video

External Links