Tuesday, September 06, 2016

A Digital Tribute to a Sweet WII Hack

ITS Tactical has an excellent post up on the World War II Cricket Clacker, a humble, yet powerful device I'd never heard of it. They explain:

During Operation Overlord, the WWII D-Day Invasion into Normandy, France on June 6th 1944, American Paratroopers carried a signaling device known as the Cricket.

The Cricket Clicker (aka Cricket Clacker) provided a distinct “click” sound when the steel backer was depressed against the brass body of the small 2 inch device.

Used as an early IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) device, the Cricket enabled paratroopers to communicate with each other under total darkness and surrounded by enemy forces as they landed scattered and out of position on the beach.

Here's what a Cricket Clicker looks like:

And here's what one sounds like. While not much to look at, it was a brilliant solution to an age old problem: how to navigate the fog of war. There's no denying that technology plays an important role in combat operations, but every once in a while, classic low-tech solutions really shines through. Like the tri-graph based encryption used during the Vietnam war. And you really can't get much lower tech than a brass and steel rectangular box. But it apparently did the job.

ITS relays this story:

“I had my pistol in one hand, my cricket in the other… I crept along the hedgerow looking for a gate. Just as I found it, I heard a stir on the other side. I drew my pistol and got all set. Then I heard the click. That was the most pleasant sound I ever heard in the entire war.” ~ General Maxwell D. Taylor, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division

Given my fondness for clever hacks like this, it's tempting to pick one up online. However, I thought I go the digital route and make a quick android version of the clicker. Naturally, I banged this out in Tasker.

First up, I needed some sound files to play. SoundBible.com totally had me covered. In a nod to the name of the original device, I grabbed 4 sounds: a click, a frog croaking, a bird singing and of course crickets chirping. I then worked up a trivial Tasker action to play back an arbitrary sound:

Play Sound (145)
 A1: Variable Set [ Name:%name To:%par1 Do Maths:Off Append:Off ] 
 A2: Music Play [ File:Tasker/sounds/%name.mp3 Start:0 Loop:Off Stream:3 ] 
 A3: Wait [ MS:0 Seconds:2 Minutes:0 Hours:0 Days:0 ] 
 A4: Music Stop [ Clear Dir:Off ] 

Next I needed to build a little UI for my app. This is strictly for covert use, so the fact that my UI is especially cryptic works to my advantage.* I busted out Tasker's scene capability and drew up this UI:

I wired each of the rectangles above into the Play Sound action with a specific sound file provided and I had my working app.

To launch the app, I created a Tasker Widget on my launcher

And here's the app in action:

Next time I've got a covert night mission to run (read: a rousing game of capture the flag) I'll totally have to bust this app out to give our team the advantage.

Joking aside, it really is amazing how simple tech can do so much.


*In hindsight, I should have also designed the UI with a dark look (black background, dark buttons, etc.), as that would make the app more friendly to use at night. Oh well, that will have to be part of v2.0.

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