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Replacement:SEN-11096. We are now carrying a very similar card reader from a different supplier. This page is for reference only.
This is a simple three track magnetic card reader with serial output. This reader takes power from the serial port and outputs a 9600bps 8N1 ASCII serial stream. Plug the reader into a serial port (or USB to serial converter), swipe your frequent shopper card, and you'll see the account number plain and unencrypted on the screen. We couldn't find a card the reader couldn't read. No drivers needed. No software needed. Just pure, wonderful serial.
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I'm rather disappointed in the lack of information on this device. Given the price of the unit, it should come with more detailed instructions. I am attempting to use this on a microcontroller (arduino). I finally figured out which wires are used to power and communicate, but I only get garbage characters. I have tried it at every baud rate possible (including the spec of 9600). I have noticed that the green LED flickers consistently every 3 seconds or so, as if it is resetting. Is this normal? Has anyone else had success with this unit in a non-PC scenario?
As I recall from a few months back the green LED should stay on - and flash only when you swipe a card. Sounds like a power problem perhaps on those handshake lines it uses. You should be able to plug it directly into the back of a PC serial com port and get it to work with a terminal application program to make sure it still works. Baud rate is 9600. Also make sure your software is not turning off the handshake lines used for power.
It works fine on a PC, but to power it up on a microcontroller board without handshaking that uses only 3 RS232 wires (TX(pin 3),RX(pin 2)and GND(pin 5)) you will also need to connect RTS(pin 7) or DTR(pin 4) to 5V (3.3V is not high enough). It draws its power off of either of these two handshake lines. When it has power, the green LED comes on.
http://mbed.org/users/4180_1/notebook/pollo-magnetic-card-reader/ has an example setup for mbed.