Monthly Archives: May 2020

Magnetic Card Reader (TTL) with Arduino – Part II

<- Part 1

Introduction

In the first part, I did some troubleshooting to fix an issue with the particular card readers that I have on hand. In part two, I will go over some code changes which allow the card reader to work without needing to add a capacitor to the data line and allowing the Arduino Nano to support two card readers.

I submitted an issue/comment to the magstripelib library in GitHub and was promptly received replies from Yoan Tournade and Carlos Rodrigues. Yoan suggested using INPUT_PULLUP on the interrupt pins may help. I modified the call to pinMode to use INPUT_PULLUP rather than INPUT but it made no difference. I suspect that there would be no difference as the card reader is pulling the pin up to the +5V rail so it is unnecessary to do in internal to the Arduino. It was worth a shot and I appreciated the suggestion.

Carlos commented that it is best to use an interrupt on the data pin as it reduces the amount of time spent in the clock interrupt handler.  This is true but the I decided to rewrite the code to read the data pin inside the clock interrupt to solve two problems for my particular instance.

  • Eliminate the need for the capacitor on the data line
  • Allow an Uno or Nano to be able to read two card readers

I had planned to fork Carlos’s original code and make some changes to have him pull back in if he felt they added to the magstripelib but felt that the changes that I wanted to make serve a different goal from Carlos’s code. The changes that I made are for a very small audience of users if any at all so I chose to simply include modified header and class files into the Arduino project.

On to the Code

The following code is available on GitHub at https://github.com/richteel/MagCardReader.

Allowing the Arduino Nano to read two card readers was the real motivation for making the changes to the code. It did present a challenge that I had not anticipated. I had to figure out how to use the same interrupt code to read from a different data pin depending on this pin which fired the interrupt.

I wanted to be able to support 2 card readers on one Arduino Nano as the card readers that I have can be setup to read track 1 or track 2. The cover holding the reader head may be removed. The cover contains two sets of notches which allow the head to be in one of two positions. Since I have two readers, I configured one for track 1 and the other for track 2.

Below is a list of some of the code changes made from the magstripelib.

  • Change class name from MagStripe to MagCardRead
  • Added volatile variable to hold the current data pin number
  • Modified the constructor to allow the assigning of the card detect, strobe (aka clock), and data pins for the reader
  • Removed the data interrupt handler
  • Read the data pin in the strobe interrupt handler

MagCardRead.h

/*
   MagCardRead - Read data from a magnetic stripe card.

   Copyright (c) 2020 Richard Teel <richteel@teelsys.com>

   Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy
   of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal
   in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights
   to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell
   copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is
   furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

   The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in
   all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

   THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR
   IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY,
   FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE
   AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER
   LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM,
   OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN
   THE SOFTWARE.


   Modified from Carlos Rodrigues <cefrodrigues@gmail.com> original MagStripe library
   Based on this: http://cal.freeshell.org/2009/11/magnetic-stripe-reader/
     ...and this: http://www.abacus21.com/Magnetic-Strip-Encoding-1586.html
*/

#ifndef MAGCARDREAD_H
#define MAGCARDREAD_H

#include 

// Default pins used by init
// The data and strobe pins depend on the board model...
#if defined(__AVR_ATmega32U4__)
// Arduino Leonardo and Arduino Micro:
#  define MAGSTRIPE_RDT 3  /* data pin (yellow) */
#  define MAGSTRIPE_RCL 2  /* strobe pin (orange) */
#else
// Arduino Uno and Arduino Mega:
#  define MAGSTRIPE_RDT 2  /* data pin (yellow) */
#  define MAGSTRIPE_RCL 3  /* strobe pin (orange) */
#endif

#  define MAGSTRIPE_CLS 4  /* card present pin (green) */

// Cards can be read in one of these possible ways...
enum ReadDirection { READ_UNKNOWN, READ_FORWARD, READ_BACKWARD };

class MagCardRead {
  public:
    MagCardRead(uint8_t cardDetectPin = MAGSTRIPE_CLS, uint8_t strobePin = MAGSTRIPE_RCL, uint8_t dataPin = MAGSTRIPE_RDT);

    // Initialize the library (attach interrupts)...
    void begin(uint8_t track);

    // Deinitialize the library (detach interrupts)...
    void stop();

    // Check if there is a card present for reading...
    bool available();

    // Read the data from the card as ASCII...
    short read(char *data, uint8_t size);

    // The direction of the last card read...
    enum ReadDirection read_direction();

  private:
    uint8_t _cardDetect_pin;
    uint8_t _strobe_pin;
    uint8_t _data_pin;

    uint8_t _track;
    enum ReadDirection direction;

    void reverse_bits();
    bool verify_parity(uint8_t c);
    bool verify_lrc(short start, short length);
    short find_sentinel(uint8_t pattern);
    short decode_bits(char *data, uint8_t size);
};


#endif  /* MAGCARDREAD_H */


/* vim: set expandtab ts=4 sw=4: */

MagCardRead.cpp

/*
   MagCardRead - Read data from a magnetic stripe card.

   Copyright (c) 2020 Richard Teel <richteel@teelsys.com>

   Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy
   of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal
   in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights
   to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell
   copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is
   furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

   The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in
   all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

   THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR
   IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY,
   FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE
   AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER
   LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM,
   OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN
   THE SOFTWARE.


   Modified from Carlos Rodrigues <cefrodrigues@gmail.com> original MagStripe library
   Based on this: http://cal.freeshell.org/2009/11/magnetic-stripe-reader/
     ...and this: http://www.abacus21.com/Magnetic-Strip-Encoding-1586.html
*/

#include "MagCardRead.h"

#include 

// Enough bits to read any of the three tracks...
#define BIT_BUFFER_LEN 800


// Variables used by the interrupt handlers...
static volatile bool next_bit = 0;                       // next bit to read
static volatile unsigned char bits[BIT_BUFFER_LEN / 8];  // buffer for bits being read
static volatile short num_bits = 0;                      // number of bits already read
static volatile uint8_t vdata_pin = 0;                   // data pin to be read by interrupt


// Manipulate the bit buffer...
static void bits_set(short index, bool bit);
static bool bits_get(short index);

// The interrupt handlers...
static void handle_strobe(void);

MagCardRead::MagCardRead(uint8_t cardDetectPin, uint8_t strobePin, uint8_t dataPin)
{
  _cardDetect_pin = cardDetectPin;
  _strobe_pin = strobePin;
  _data_pin = dataPin;

  direction = READ_UNKNOWN;
}

void MagCardRead::begin(uint8_t track)
{
  _track = track;

  pinMode(_cardDetect_pin, INPUT_PULLUP);
  pinMode(_strobe_pin, INPUT_PULLUP);
  pinMode(_data_pin, INPUT_PULLUP);

  // Reading is more reliable when using interrupts...
  attachInterrupt(digitalPinToInterrupt(_strobe_pin), handle_strobe, FALLING);  // strobe pin
}


void MagCardRead::stop()
{
  detachInterrupt(digitalPinToInterrupt(_strobe_pin));
}


bool MagCardRead::available()
{
  vdata_pin = _data_pin;
  return digitalRead(_cardDetect_pin) == LOW;
}


short MagCardRead::read(char *data, unsigned char size)
{
  // Fail if no card present...
  if (!available()) {
    return -1;
  }

  // Empty the bit buffer...
  num_bits = 0;
  next_bit = 0;

  // Wait while the data is being read by the interrupt routines...
  while (available()) {}

  // Decode the raw bits...
  short chars = decode_bits(data, size);
  direction = READ_FORWARD;

  // If the data looks bad, reverse and try again...
  if (chars < 0) {
    reverse_bits();
    chars = decode_bits(data, size);
    direction = READ_BACKWARD;
  }

  // The card could not be read successfully...
  if (chars < 0) {
    direction = READ_UNKNOWN;
  }

  return chars;
}


enum ReadDirection MagCardRead::read_direction()
{
  return direction;
}


void MagCardRead::reverse_bits()
{
  for (short i = 0; i < num_bits / 2; i++) {
    bool b = bits_get(i);

    bits_set(i, bits_get(num_bits - i - 1));
    bits_set(num_bits - i - 1, b);
  }
}


bool MagCardRead::verify_parity(unsigned char c)
{
  unsigned char parity = 0;

  for (unsigned char i = 0; i < 8; i++) { parity += (c >> i) & 1;
  }

  // The parity must be odd...
  return parity % 2 != 0;
}


bool MagCardRead::verify_lrc(short start, short length)
{
  unsigned char parity_bit = (_track == 1 ? 7 : 5);

  // Count the number of ones per column (ignoring parity bits)...
  for (short i = 0; i < (parity_bit - 1); i++) {
    short parity = 0;

    for (short j = i; j < length; j += parity_bit) {
      parity += bits_get(start + j);
    }

    // Even parity is what we want...
    if (parity % 2 != 0) {
      return false;
    }
  }

  return true;
}


short MagCardRead::find_sentinel(unsigned char pattern)
{
  unsigned char bit_accum = 0;
  unsigned char bit_length = (_track == 1 ? 7 : 5);

  for (short i = 0; i < num_bits; i++) { bit_accum >>= 1;                               // rotate the bits to the right...
    bit_accum |= bits_get(i) << (bit_length - 1);  // ...and add the current bit

    // Stop when the start sentinel pattern is found...
    if (bit_accum == pattern) {
      return i - (bit_length - 1);
    }
  }

  // No start sentinel was found...
  return -1;
}


short MagCardRead::decode_bits(char *data, unsigned char size) {
  short bit_count = 0;
  unsigned char chars = 0;
  unsigned char bit_accum = 0;
  unsigned char bit_length = (_track == 1 ? 7 : 5);

  short bit_start = find_sentinel(_track == 1 ? 0x45 : 0x0b);
  if (bit_start < 0) {  // error, start sentinel not found
    return -1;
  }

  for (short i = bit_start; i < num_bits; i++) { bit_accum >>= 1;                                 // rotate the bits to the right...
    bit_accum |= (bits_get(i) << (bit_length - 1)); // ...and add the current bit bit_count++; if (bit_count % bit_length == 0) { if (chars >= size) {  // error, the buffer is too small
        return -1;
      }

      // A null means we reached the end of the data...
      if (bit_accum == 0) {
        break;
      }

      // The parity must be odd...
      if (!verify_parity(bit_accum)) {
        return -1;
      }

      // Remove the parity bit...
      bit_accum &= ~(1 << (bit_length - 1));

      // Convert the character to ASCII...
      data[chars] = bit_accum + (_track == 1 ? 0x20 : 0x30);
      chars++;

      // Reset...
      bit_accum = 0;
    }
  }

  // Turn the data into a null-terminated string...
  data[chars] = '\0';

  if (data[chars - 2] != '?') {  // error, the end sentinel is not in the right place
    return -1;
  }

  // Verify the LRC (even parity across columns)...
  if (!verify_lrc(bit_start, chars * bit_length)) {
    return -1;
  }

  return chars;
}


static void bits_set(short index, bool bit)
{
  volatile unsigned char *b = &bits[index / 8];
  unsigned char m = 1 << (index % 8);

  *b = bit ? (*b | m) : (*b & ~m);
}


static bool bits_get(short index)
{
  return bits[index / 8] & (1 << (index % 8)); } static void handle_strobe() { // Avoid a crash in case there are too many bits (garbage)... if (num_bits >= BIT_BUFFER_LEN) {
    return;
  }

  next_bit = !digitalRead(vdata_pin);

  bits_set(num_bits, next_bit);
  num_bits++;
}


/* vim: set expandtab ts=4 sw=4: */

MagCardReader.ino

/*
   MagCardRead - Read data from a magnetic stripe card.

   Copyright (c) 2020 Richard Teel <richteel@teelsys.com>

   Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy
   of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal
   in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights
   to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell
   copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is
   furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

   The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in
   all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

   THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR
   IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY,
   FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE
   AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER
   LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM,
   OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN
   THE SOFTWARE.


   Modified from Carlos Rodrigues <cefrodrigues@gmail.com> original MagStripe library
   Based on this: http://cal.freeshell.org/2009/11/magnetic-stripe-reader/
     ...and this: http://www.abacus21.com/Magnetic-Strip-Encoding-1586.html
*/

#include "MagCardRead.h"


#define pinCardDetect1 4
#define pinStrobe1 2
#define pinData1 5

#define pinCardDetect2 6
#define pinStrobe2 3
#define pinData2 7

// Visual feedback when the card is being read...
static const byte READ_LED = 8;  //13
static const byte ERROR_LED = 9; //12

//MagCardRead card;
//MagCardRead card(pinCardDetect);
MagCardRead card(pinCardDetect1, pinStrobe1, pinData1);
MagCardRead card2(pinCardDetect2, pinStrobe2, pinData2);

/*
   Track 3 is the one that can contain the most characters (107).
   We add one more to accomodate the final '\0', as the data is a C string...
*/
static const byte DATA_BUFFER_LEN = 108;
static char data[DATA_BUFFER_LEN];


void readCard(MagCardRead crd) {
  // Don't do anything if there isn't a card present...
  if (!crd.available()) {
    return;
  }

  // Show that a card is being read...
  digitalWrite(READ_LED, HIGH);
  Serial.println("-- Read Completed --");

  // Read the card into the buffer "data" (as a null-terminated string)...
  short chars = crd.read(data, DATA_BUFFER_LEN);

  // Show that the card has finished reading...
  digitalWrite(READ_LED, LOW);

  // If there was an error reading the card, blink the error LED...
  if (chars < 0) {
    digitalWrite(ERROR_LED, HIGH);
    delay(250);
    digitalWrite(ERROR_LED, LOW);
    Serial.println("Read Error...");
    Serial.println(chars);

    return;
  }

  Serial.println("Good Read...");
  Serial.print("Read Direction: ");
  //Serial.println(crd.read_direction());
  Serial.println(crd.read_direction() == 1 ? "Forward" : crd.read_direction() == 2 ? "Backward" : "Unknown");


  // Send the data to the computer...
  Serial.println(data);
}

void setup()
{
  pinMode(READ_LED, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(ERROR_LED, OUTPUT);

  // The card data will be sent over serial...
  Serial.begin(9600);

  // Initialize the library for reading track 2...
  card.begin(1);
  card2.begin(2);

  // Start with the feedback LEDs off...
  digitalWrite(READ_LED, LOW);
  digitalWrite(ERROR_LED, LOW);
}


void loop()
{
  readCard(card);
  readCard(card2);
}


/* EOF - MagCardRead.ino */

Conclusion

Most applications with card readers and Arduinos should make use of the magstripelib library by Carlos Rodrigues. If you have a project that uses one of the card readers mentioned in the original blog post then add a capacitor to the data line as mentioned in the original post. If for some reason, you cannot add a capacitor as mentioned or you need to read from two readers, then the code mentioned here may be a good solution.

Magnetic Card Reader (TTL) with Arduino

Introduction

I was cleaning up and found a project I abandoned about 20 years ago. I was attempting to read magnetic strip cards using the PC Parallel Port. I had done it previously with a different card reader but I had some trouble with these two particular units. I wanted to test them before I decided to get rid of them so I broke out an Arduino Nano and found the magstripelib library written by Carlos Rodrigues on GitHub. I could not get the readers to work with the code so I looked at the libraries but found no issue with them. I then found an issue with the hardware that was rather easy to solve.

The Magnetic Card Readers

I purchased the card readers from either All Electronics or Electronic Goldmine. (Both places are great for obtaining low cost surplus electronics.) The readers are made by Tokin and have a part number of MCS-131P-3. The PCB contains 1550-B014-00-1 and YEC YE-34V N markings.

Card Reader Left Side View   Card Reader Top View   Card Reader Right Side View

I had recalled that there was an issue with the connector cable on the readers that I wanted to resolve. The red wire is connected to ground and the brown wire is connected to Vcc (+5V). This was verified by checking with an ohm meter. Additionally, there is a card sense connection but there is no wire. With a simple modification, we can switch the wires and add a new wire for the card sense connection. While we are at it, We will make the readers breadboard friendly by changing the connector to a 5 pin male header.

Modifying the Magnetic Card Reader

Step 1 – remove the PCB

Use a plastic tool or very carefully use a screwdriver to remove the hot glue holding the PCB in place and carefully slide the card out of the reader.

Card Reader Right Side View   Plastic Tool   Separating PC Board

Once the card is free, you can see that the board layout is made to accommodate the correct connections but there was an effort made to switch the ground and Vcc wires.

Separated PC Board   Close-up of the wires connecting to the PCB

Step 2 – Remove the strain relief zip-tie

Cut the zip-tie and remove.

   

Step 3 – Switch the red and brown wires

Unsolder the red and brown wires, switch them, and solder in place.

   

Step 4 – Add the card sense wire

Cut a length of stranded 26 AWG wire, strip the ends and solder to the card-sense connection.

Step 5 – Add the strain relief

Use a zip-tie to reapply the strain relief to the wire connector using the two holes in the PCB.

             

Step 6 – Reinstall the PCB

Carefully return the PCB to the plastic assembly by reinserting into the slot.

Step 7 – Remove the old connector

Cut off the old connector.

Step 8 – Prep the wires

Strip the ends of the wire and tin with solder.

Step 9 – Cut Heat-Shrink Tubing

Cut 5 pieces of 1/16″ heat-shrink to about 1/4″ in length and one or two pieces of 3/16″ heat-shrink tubing about 3/4″ in length.

Step 10 – Prepare male header pins

Cut a single-row male header to 5 positions.

Step 11 – Solder wires to header

Tin the short pins with solder. Slide the 3/16″ heat-shrink piece(s) over all of the wires together. Solder each wire to the tinned header pins by first sliding a 1/16″ heat-shrink tubing over each wire.

Step 12 – Shrink the heat-shrink tubing

You may want to use a breadboard to keep the pins aligned while heating the tubing as the plastic may become pliable and allow the pins to move. Heat the tubing to fix them in place.

Testing with the Arduino

Wire up the Arduino

The wiring will depend on the processor on the Arduino. If you are uncertain as to which processor your Arduino has, check out the Wikipedia article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Arduino_boards_and_compatible_systems.

The Arduino Nano uses the following wiring.

Wire Color Function Arduino Pin
Brown Ground GND
Red Vcc 5V
Green Card Detect 4
Orange Strobe 3
Yellow Data 2

Load the example sketch

Connect the Arduino to the PC and start the Arduino IDE and add the magstripelib library by going to the menu Tools > Manage Libraries… Search for MagStrip and install the library by Carlos Rodrigues.

Find and Install MagStripe Library

Load the MagStripe example by going to the menu File > Examples > MagStripe > MagStripeReader.

Make certain the correct board and port are selected then upload the code to the Arduino. Once the code is loaded, open the serial monitor and run a card through the reader to see if there is any data read. I did not receive any data so I added some lines of code to let me know that there was an issue. Below is the modified code. The modified code let me know that the card was detected and it attempted to read it but ran into an issue decoding the data.

/*
 * MagStripeReader - Read data from a magnetic stripe card (track 1, 2 or 3).
 *
 * Copyright (c) 2010 Carlos Rodrigues <cefrodrigues@gmail.com>
 *
 * Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy
 * of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal
 * in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights
 * to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell
 * copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is
 * furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:
 *
 * The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in
 * all copies or substantial portions of the Software.
 *
 * THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR
 * IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY,
 * FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE
 * AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER
 * LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM,
 * OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN
 * THE SOFTWARE.
 */


#include 


// Visual feedback when the card is being read...
static const byte READ_LED = 13;
static const byte ERROR_LED = 12;

MagStripe card;

/*
 * Track 3 is the one that can contain the most characters (107).
 * We add one more to accomodate the final '\0', as the data is a C string...
 */
static const byte DATA_BUFFER_LEN = 108;
static char data[DATA_BUFFER_LEN];


void setup()
{
  pinMode(READ_LED, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(ERROR_LED, OUTPUT);
  
  // The card data will be sent over serial...
  Serial.begin(9600);
  
  // Initialize the library for reading track 2...
  card.begin(2);

  // Start with the feedback LEDs off...
  digitalWrite(READ_LED, LOW);
  digitalWrite(ERROR_LED, LOW);
}

 
void loop()
{
  // Don't do anything if there isn't a card present...
  if (!card.available()) {
    return;
  }
  
  // Show that a card is being read...
  digitalWrite(READ_LED, HIGH);
  
  // Read the card into the buffer "data" (as a null-terminated string)...
  short chars = card.read(data, DATA_BUFFER_LEN);
  
  // Show that the card has finished reading...
  digitalWrite(READ_LED, LOW);
    Serial.println("-- Read Completed --");
  
  // If there was an error reading the card, blink the error LED...
  if (chars < 0) {
    digitalWrite(ERROR_LED, HIGH);
    delay(250);
    digitalWrite(ERROR_LED, LOW);
    Serial.println("Read Error...");
    Serial.println(chars);

    return;
  }
  
  Serial.println("Good Read...");
  Serial.print("Read Direction: ");
  //Serial.println(card.read_direction());
  Serial.println(card.read_direction()==1 ? "Forward" : card.read_direction()==2 ? "Backward" : "Unknown");

  // Send the data to the computer...
  Serial.println(data);
}


/* EOF - MagStripeReader.ino */

The result was always a failed read no mater which card was read.

-- Read Completed --
Read Error...
-1

Troubleshooting

As mentioned in the introduction, I first focused on the code to see if I could find something that was amiss. I also attempted to switch the strobe and clock wires to see if I had identified them incorrectly. I then tried using an Arduino Uno to see if the Nano was a problem but I still could not successfully read a card. I then turned my attention to the hardware. The first thing that I did was to use my Tenma 72-8705 oscilloscope to look at the strobe and data lines. I noted that it looked like the data line had narrow spikes on some clock edges. I did not think much of it at the time.


Channel 1 is Strobe and Channel 2 is Data

I decided to break out the Saleae Logic Analyzer to capture the strobe and data lines and manually decode the data to see if the readers are working properly. I saw the same spikes on the data line which occurs with the rising clock edge.


Channel 0 is Strobe, Channel 1 is Data, and Channel 2 is Card Sense

Since the spikes occur on a rising clock edge, it really should not be an issue as the data is only valid on a falling clock edge. I exported the captured data into a CSV file and looked at it in Excel. I was able to decode the data and verified that the data was reading the card properly. To know that the data was read properly, it was necessary to read some of the information from Magtek.

I took another look at the code and see that the data values are being flipped from the previous value. I was unable to determine what the width of the spikes are but I suspect that the spikes may flip the data value in the code but are not wide enough to raise the hardware interrupt on the Arduino when it returns to +5V. If this is the case then it is understandable why there are issues reading the cards. This could be fixed using hardware or software. I took the hardware approach by connecting a 0.01uF capacitor between the data line and Vcc. Once the capacitor was added to remove the spikes from the data line, the code was able to read the cards successfully.

Going Further

It may be possible to resolve the issue observed with this particular card reader by removing the interrupt from the data pin and reading the data value on the clock interrupt instead. This in turn would free up the hardware interrupt used for the data pin and allow any digital pin to be used for the data line. This may allow the reading of two track from readers which read multiple tracks or allow the use of more than one card reader.

Part II ->