ON THE CASE - Limor Fried of Cambridge, Mass. listening to an MP3
   player she fashioned out of an Altoids tin. Such personal electronics
   have been called iTins.

Curiously High-Tech Hacks for a Classic Tin

   Published: February 3, 2005

   WHEN  Limor  Fried, who recently earned a master's degree at M.I.T.,
   decided  to build an MP3 player not long ago, she went looking for the
   right case for her new device.

   After  discussing  possibilities  with her roommate, she realized that
   the  perfect choice was something a lot of people have found useful at
   one time or another: an Altoids tin.

   For  decades,  Altoids - the "Curiously Strong" mints - have come in a
   simple  tin  box,  just  like dozens of other mints. Yet, Altoids tins
   have  a singular place in modern culture, a place that lends itself to
   infinite utility.

   "People  put  a  lot  of interesting stuff in Altoids tins," Ms. Fried
   said. "Usually it's one of two options, either drugs or condoms."

   Actually,   said   Chris   Peddy,  marketing  director  at  Callard  &
   Bowser-Suchard, which makes Altoids, the tins are far more useful than
   that, and have been for a long time.

   "Altoids  have  always  been what we call a curiously strong lifestyle
   accessory,"  Mr.  Peddy  said. In fact, Mr. Peddy said, the history of
   Altoids  goes  back 100 years, to England, and the tin itself was long
   seen as a "gentlemanly accessory."

   Further,  he said, Ms. Fried's MP3 player is the latest in a long line
   of  electronic  devices  that  make  use  of  the tins. He called such
   projects iTins.

   "Altoids  tins  were  originally  used for shortwave radios," he said.
   "So, way before the iPod, people were finding creative ways to use
   the tin."

   Ms.  Limor  said  an Altoids tin was perfect for ensuring that her MP3
   player worked properly.

   "Ham  radio  operators have been using tin boxes for a long time," she
   said.  "They  block  electromagnetic  interference, and it's protected
   from spurious RF waves."

   Jacob  Ward,  the  managing  editor  of  ReadyMade  magazine, recently
   challenged  his  readers  to  come  up  with colorful, imaginative and
   offbeat uses for the tins
   (www.readymademag.com/feature_12_macgyver.php).      Among     the
   submissions were miniature shrines and minty cheese graters.

   "We  all  use  them,"  Mr.  Ward  said  of  Altoids  tins.  "They're a
   ubiquitous  accessory of the club-going, dating set. Anybody who likes
   their  breath fresh or who likes cool industrial design has an Altoids

   One  notable  contest  entry,  he  said, was a functional iPod battery

   "You  could  plug  in  your iPod cord with a $3 thing of Altoids," Mr.
   Ward  said.  "You  get  minty breath and then you save yourself a $100
   battery replacement fee that Apple charges you."

   Chris  DiClerico, the designer of the iPod battery pack and a New York
   information  architect,  said  that  beyond the cultural appeal of the
   Altoids  tin, it is simply a highly useful box. "I don't think there's
   anyone  else  who  makes  such  a functional box," Mr. DiClerico said.
   "It's metal, it's not flimsy and it closes tight every time."

   He added that it is easy to work with. "It's real easy to cut and it's
   real easy to bend."

   Although  he  originally  designed his battery pack using the standard
   Altoids  container  for  peppermints,  Mr.  DiClerico said that he had
   subsequently gone on to build another version - with a shorter battery
   life - into the smaller Altoids chewing gum tin.

   Mr.  DiClerico  is  so taken with the notion of modifying Altoids tins
   that   he   plans  to  start  a  Web  site  devoted  to  the  subject.
   Coincidentally,  altoids.com  plans to unveil something similar in

   In  any  case, Mr. Ward saved his highest praise for the winning entry
   in his contest, a set of iPod speakers made from two tins.

   "The  guy  had used playing cards as a backing to create a tiny bit of
   bass,"  Mr.  Ward said. "They weren't exactly the kind of speakers you
   could  have  a  dance  party with. But if you wanted to make out, they
   were perfect."

   The  builder  of the speakers, Ken Kirkpatrick, a 24-year-old designer
   from  Walnut  Creek,  Calif.,  said he was excited to take part in the
   ReadyMade competition, in part because of how many things there are to
   do with an Altoids tin.

   "It's  as  universal  as  a  paper  clip,  and there's definitely some
   iconization there," Mr. Kirkpatrick said.

   But even better, from Mr. Kirkpatrick's perspective, was the fact that
   the  ReadyMade challenge gave him a chance to relive some memories. He
   collected  Altoids  tins  for years, he said, and created a version of
   the speakers when he was 14.

   Altoids  tins  are  "actually kind of like a part of my childhood," he
   said.  "Every kid's got something, whether they're a smoker or whether
   they chew gum. For me, it was Altoids."