Portal: Radio Transmission Update


Early this morning, Steam popped up with a notification saying “Steam has finished downloading Portal”. Eager to see what was updated, I opened the News page, to find the following:

Updates to Portal have been released. The updates will be applied automatically when your Steam client is restarted.

Portal

  • Changed radio transmission frequency to comply with federal and state spectrum management regulations

Eager to see what this was about, I hit up the Steam Forums to see what it was all about. I was not expecting dinosaurs and elephant greens.

Transmission Recieved

The first clue was given by eatpie75, who noticed that there was a new achievement, “Transmission Recieved”. The achievement description simply read “..?”. SirPorkChop noticed that the radios ingame were given a red light, and KeRupTion posted that you can progress towards unlocking the new achievement by standing on the button in the first test chamber, while holding the radio. The light on the radio then turned green, and morse code was played. Note that this only happens once you have completed Portal.

Dinosaurs

There were also 26 new WAV files included in the update, first mentioned by BillyTheRatKing, named dinosaur1.wav through dinosaur26.wav. Shrewsbury posted a screenshot of the second radio, in test chamber 2. It didn’t take long to realise that there were an additional 25 radios planted throughout the game, and each one played the corresponding WAV file when taken to a specific location in it’s test chamber. When near the location, but not withing the sound-playing area, the radio simply played static.

  • Klusark decoded the first WAV file as “INTERIOR TRANSMISSION ACTIVE EXTERNAL DATA LINE ACTIVE MESSAGE DIGEST ACTIVE”.
  • SilverWolf decoded dinosaur12.wav as “SYSTEM DATA DUMP ACTIVE USER BACKUP ACTIVE PASSWORD BACKUP ACTIVE”
  • SilverWolf also decoded dinosaur17.wav as “BEEP BEEEP BEEP BEEP BEEEP BEEEP BEEEP BEEP BEEEP BEEP BEEP”, which is in turn Morse Code for “LOL”.
  • Crazydog115 decoded dinosaur5.wav as “9E107D9D372BB6826BD81D3542A419D6”, which is the MD5 hash of “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”.

Back in the days of Dial-Up, did you ever pick up the phone while the modem was connected, and listen to the data transmission? That’s what the remaining Dinosaur WAVs sounded like, and Z-95 suggested they were SSTV. I had never heard of SSTV before, but Wikipedia quickly informed me that it was:

Slow-scan television (SSTV) is a picture transmission method used mainly by amateur radio operators, to transmit and receive static pictures via radio in monochrome or color.

Z-95 then confirmed that dinosaur2.wav was indeed SSTV, and Don818 on FacePunch posted that the letters and numbers in the SSTV images made up the string “9459C6CAC8C203B8128B7CC63068D4FD”, which is the MD5 hash of (425) 822-5251. That number is registered to a landline in Kirkland (near Seattle), which is where Valve was founded.

The BBS

To access the BBS hosted at that number, you need a 56K modem, and software such as HyperTerminal. The username and password, as given in dinosaur12.wav, are “backup” and “backup” respectively. No username and password combination worked for a good while, and Robin Walker was quoted as saying:

Nobody is looking in the right place. You need to look beneath the elephant green for the login information.

Yet after a while, backup/backup worked. Upon logging in, ASCII art is shown, sometimes with some text such as “Human Enrichment & Testing Initiative, Resource Acquisitions”, apparently an Aperture Science document. BBS logs can be found at http://kevin.fobby.net/portal_puzzle/raw_bbs_logs/xkeeper_turns_back_to_binary/ and all over the Steam Forums and other forums, as well as enhanced versions of the ASCII art, and what they (supposedly) represent.

Update:

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    • Mendozacheers
    • March 2nd, 2010

    Thanks for this damn good information, this is what i’ve been waiting for! =)

  1. I just wanted to point out that the in-game stuff you posted isn’t all you have to do. There are radios hidden in each level, and you must carry them around and use them like metal detectors (the more noise, the closer you are) to receive the “transmission.” There are 26 radios throughout the levels.

    • Toxy
    • March 3rd, 2010

    There is more to the ingame achievement with the radio. I got all 26 and then beat glados again for kicks and during the end sequence (starting when you’re flying through the ducts towards the cake) I heard a very clear (but obviously very slowed down) voice saying something. It continued to play during the still alive song as well. I alt-tabbed to see if windows sound recorded could record it and after about 5-10 seconds when I saw that it worked I tried to re-load my saved game and record the whole file. Unfortunately it didn’t play the file a second time. This is not the same as the dinosaur#.wav files with the heavy distortion. This was clearly a voice. I sped up the tiny part I did record and it seems to be a man saying “-tween us is that I can feel pain.” I’m unable to post this on the stupid steam forums because I created my account last night and it’s waiting for a moderator or something before I can post. I can send you the sound file after I get home from work if nobody has managed to record the whole thing. My tiny piece isn’t really any good by itself though. I just hope someone sees this comment and records the whole audio track so that I can finally hear what he says!

    • Interesting. Can you send me the recording? I’ll have a look through the Portal GCFs and see if I can find a sound file that matches. Everyone just seems to take it for granted that we’ve already found whatever there is to be found in the game files.

      • fleshBasedProcessor
      • March 3rd, 2010

      When you finish off Glados she keeps on talking, but it slows down a whole lot. One of the lines she says during the fight is “The difference between us is that I can feel pain.” I don’t know why it kept playing through the credits but I would guess it is only a glitch

      • Chris
      • March 3rd, 2010

      It didn’t happen to be a *male* voice, did it? I seem to recall a mention of another anomalous file along with the ‘dinosaur’ files that was a male voice voice-synth saying one of GlaDOS’ usual lines.

    • Gritz
    • March 3rd, 2010

    thank you, good sir. well done, nice write up.

  2. daimn, man
    valve blow mah head!

  3. Good job documenting this. Keep it going, this isn’t over yet.

    • Thankyou
    • March 3rd, 2010

    Cool story bro

    GlaDOS is alive and well in the BBS 🙂

    • Damon
    • March 3rd, 2010

    Please keep this updated as I am bookmarking it.

    • v.dog
    • March 3rd, 2010

    I thought ‘elephant green’ was dismissed as a troll’s work.

    • Arnesahn
    • March 4th, 2010

    “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”.
    As I remeber 20 years ago this sentence was printed all over the screen when you wrote a sentence or something in MS word??

    • “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” is a phrase used for testing fonts, as it contains every letter in the alphabet. It supports the theory that what we’re seeing is a boot sequence, and it was encoded through MD5, hinting that we would need to do it again – to get the BBS number.

        • Chris
        • March 4th, 2010

        Tch…you children, growing up never knowing anything pre-PC…

        ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’ originated as a test line for *typewriters* (Not electric ones, but the original mechanical kind, where pressing a key caused a lever arm to impact an inked band, printing the character onto the paper). As has been pointed out, it uses all 26 letters so was used in combination with ‘1234568790’ to make sure all of the arms worked properly.

  4. I am definitely not getting the same md5 hash sums as posted in this log entry.

    • Works fine for me, using this generator: http://www.miraclesalad.com/webtools/md5.php

      If you’re using ‘echo | md5sum’ under Linux, echo adds a newline to the end. use ‘echo -n | md5sum’.

      Otherwise, you’re probably doing it wrong. Do not include the quotes in “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”, and the “T” has to be capitalized to match. The BBS phone number “(425) 822-5251” (again, dont include the quotes) hashes fine for me.

        • Victor Zamanian
        • March 4th, 2010

        OH! I see, with the newline. Yeah I was in linux. 🙂 That solved it for me. Including the quotes is fine in bash though, b.t.w. Bash removes them unless escaped. 😀

        • Ah ok. I specifically mentioned to remove the quotes because some people were including them in the online tools, and that changes the entire hash.

    • Zerego
    • March 5th, 2010

    I assume you all know about the new ending, featuring a voice saying “Thank you for assuming the party escort submission position” followed by Chell being dragged away. Quite interesting, if you ask me.

    • Dar3D3ViL
    • March 6th, 2010

    Woow these radio messages must be clues for Portal 2 or Half-Life 2 Episode 3!

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