A smart radio can tune out Good, Bad Guys

SATURDAY'S HERO

September 26, 1992|By ROB KASPER

After I left the parking lights on and the car battery went dead and a jump from another car revived the battery, it still took me three days to get the car radio working.

That is because it is one of those "outsmart-the-Bad-Guy" radios. This is the kind of radio that is designed to stop working when the Bad Guy yanks it out of your car. It won't play music until its secret reactivating code is punched in on the radio tuning buttons.

This kind of radio also freezes up when it meets up with a bad battery.

I found that out the other day when I snapped on the radio and heard a high-pitched whine. I looked down and saw the word "code" flashing on the part of the radio that normally told me

what station I was listening to.

I was a good guy, the owner of the car. But the radio wasn't sure. To convince it, I had to punch in the secret code.

I vaguely remembered seeing the secret code on a special card. And I recalled hiding the card in a place where the Bad Guy wouldn't find it.

The trouble was, now I couldn't find it, either.

I used to keep the card in the car's glove compartment. But I got scared into moving it after I imagined the following Bad Guy scenario:

Bad Guy breaks into car, yanks out radio and says to self: "If this is going to have any value on the free market, I need the secret code."

Bad Guy then opens glove compartment, reads owner's manual (something I have never done), and behold, the secret radio card falls into his lap. Bad Guy reads card, punches in secret code and takes working radio to "Stolen Radios R Us" where he sells it for a big profit.

This scenario scared me. So I took the secret code card into the house and put it in the household filing cabinet.

Even after taking this precaution, I was worried by Bad Guy scenario No. 2. It went something like this:

Bad Guy breaks into car, yanks out radio, reads owner's manual and, failing to find secret code, decides to break into the house looking for it.

Bad Guy breaks into house, walks to filing cabinet, pulls out secret code, punches it in radio. He then proceeds to "Stolen Radios R Us" to pursue a life of fame and profit.

L It turns out that Bad Guy scenario No. 2 is not very likely.

It is true that the Bad Guy could break into my car. He could steal the radio. He could even break into my house. But he could never find what he was looking for in our files.

That is because in our house, we have an "unusual" filing system. It is not alphabetical. It is not logical. It is personal. Where things get filed depends in large measure on who had it last.

I did eventually find the card with the secret code in our file cabinet.

It took me three days and several trips through the files.

It did not turn up in the "car" file. It was not in "auto" file. I am not sure what the exact difference is between those two files, but one has the record of every oil change I paid for since 1977; the other has rear-view mirror brochures.

I looked in the "button-punching" file. This file contains information on how to reset the clock on the VCR and what buttons to punch when the kids' digital watches go haywire.

I looked in "security" file. It wasn't there, either, but I did find the combination to an old bicycle lock.

I finally found the secret code in the "insurance" file.

I must have figured that if the Bad Guy got the car radio, I would end up looking in the insurance file to see if the loss was covered. Pretty tricky, huh?

When I found the card, I noticed it also contained the radio's serial number.

A friend had told me that when he had a similar radio code problem, he simply called the manufacturer of his car and told them the serial number of his radio. Soon, the manufacturer had sent him the secret code.

This procedure would not have worked for me, because I had no idea what my serial number was.

Now, of course, all that has changed. I have written down my radio serial number and stashed it in a secret place.

I have created a special "super secret" file. It contains my vital numbers: my car radio serial number, my vehicle identification number, my car title number, my social security number, my birth lTC date, and the radio code.

Just in case, I am considering getting the code tattooed on my body. I can't say where. That is more for me to know, and for the Bad Guy to guess.

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