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Project Help and Ideas » Swipe Card Reader Project

July 04, 2010
by jstube2
jstube2's Avatar


I was wondering if anybody here had any experience interfacing a swipe card reader to your microcontroller? I think it would be cool to do some projects involving access control/security systems but I have no idea where to start; I've found some tutorials online, can anyone give me some good recommendations from experience?

Ultimately, I would like to be able to control several locking mechanisms/servos using a swipe card (but I'll cross that bridge when I get there--right now, any advice for a beginner would be much appreciated!)

Thanks for the tips!

July 04, 2010
by mongo
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I recently dug one up in my junk out in the garage. It looks like it plugs right into a PS2 keyboard connector. Been thinking of ways to put it to use as well.

July 05, 2010
TBNK's Avatar

Maybe you have already seen it, but there is a LOT of information on mag card readers at Stripe Snoop, both technical and non-technical. It has not been updated in a long time, but neither has mag card technology.

I recommend you start with and work your way through the other documents available on that web site.

Many people have successfully gotten mag card readers to work with ATMega168 MCUs, so you should be able to do this too.

July 06, 2010
by hevans
(NerdKits Staff)

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Hi jstube2,

Like TBNK said, interfacing the 168 with a magnetic card reader is possible, and it is mostly going to be a matter of figuring out how your particular reader sends out the data. If you pick one up from a store it will hopefully have a datasheet with it, or at least some indication as to what protocol it uses. If you pick one up from somewhere else it becomes a game of figuring out how to interface with the reader, having an oscilloscope comes in really handy at that point. Let us know how your project gets along, sounds like a good one!


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