CueCat hack

Remember CueCats? They were the nifty personal barcode device that advertisers were going to use to taylor market to your personal habits and tastes. It was the hardware version of spyware. Well, it failed miserably 1.

But lucky us, they offered them for free and you can still find them on eBay. Since I use a Mac, I got the USB model. (click on the images for a larger view)

CueCat, assembled

The only problem is that CueCats use a proprietary scanning encryption. Hence, the need for a mod that lets them work as generic barcode scanners 2, for use with any cataloging software like Delicious Monster’s Library, for instance.

Step 1:

Open up your Cat.

removed cover

Step 2:

The USB models have a 16 pin SMD microcontroller. This IC will have a part number on it similar to the following sequence: K130A033 HMS91C7316 0027. The reference designator for this IC is “R2”. (I disconnected that cable for clarity, but it’s unnecessary)

chip view

Step 3:

Simply lift pin 5 on this device. The Cat is now functioning as a commercial barcode scanner.

lifted pin

Full Project Gallery:


  1. CueCatastrophe
  2. Hack your Cue Cat!





12 responses to “CueCat hack”

  1. Jim Avatar

    Anyone know how to hack the 1966 model USB Cuecats? I bought two of them, but the usual hacks don’t seem to work.

  2. icerabbit Avatar

    I remember those. Can’t you use them to keep track of your cds, movies etc if you give them to friends, like libraries & videostores do?

    1. Rob Avatar

      Yep! Pretty sweet stuff.

  3. James Avatar

    Oh how spyware has changed.

  4. karen Avatar

    Wow! Thanks so much for your pics! I am a non-electronics-abled middle-aged mom, trying to figure out how to mod an old usb cuecat to scan grocery coupons. I found lots of sites that told me to lift pin 5, but with 16 little metal doohickeys, i didn’t know how to count them to get number 5. Your photo solved the riddle! YAY!

  5. patty Avatar

    good to know that you are now free to scan your own groceries just for fun.


    jftr, i have never heard of a cue cat…you are a rare bird (or at least an engineering one)…

  6. Joe Avatar

    This hint worked super with the Cat. No. 68-1966
    USB version just well I popped the #5 pin up with a utility knife blade and moved it all the way up from the surface with a small set of tweasers…
    Plugged it in and scanned a DVD into Delicious Library and up popped the info and I’m happy…. Faster than my iBot Firewire Camera! (which also works very well in DL)

    1. Rob Avatar

      That’s great to hear, Joe. Glad to be of help. Hey, what’s an iBot? Do you like Delicious Library? Haven’t used it in quite some time. I really wanted to be able to publish my library into HTML pages, but at the time it couldn’t do that.

      1. Joe Avatar

        iBot is a Firewire Camera from Orange Micro ❗
        I thought it might be a nice addition to my Mac but I’ve used it very rarely and only now with DL that it seams to have been a waste of the 200.00 ?

        now a discontinued model…:(

        DL, I love it it.:P Its better than the homemade database I made in Filemaker and I didn’t even have pictures in mine, just title date bought price etc a basic inventory stationary file modified and tweaked.
        I have a large collection and knowing whom has parts of it out on loan helps. I haven’t exported it to HTML as I don’t want the world to know what I own…

  7. Shane Avatar

    Have a pair of modded cue cats, but Tiger is being difficult. It insists on identifying them as keyboards, and wants to check the layout by having me hit specific keys… and they ( apple ) appear to have fallen victim to windows-itis in that it wont _let_ me use the device until I go through the impossible configuration garbage.

    How do I get around this?

  8. […] I found some really great information about how easy it is to modify the pins of an IC, to eliminate the encryption[PDF] of the plain […]

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