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Ever since the mailman has come into existance, there has been an urging question how to detect the poor man's work from far, far away. With the addition of yet another superfluous DK rule, we must see that the urging question has become one of paramount importance. No longer can a snailmailbox be a slot in your door; no longer may a snailmailbox be located slightly away from the street. The poor postman's work has to be done from the street, where he may remain seated in his motorized vehicle. Just waiting to be replaced by a robotic arm to save the poor postoffice from the curse of having people employed.

But, where does that leave us users? We need to go outside to see what is in the mailbox. And with the advent of more and more electronic communication, we walk in vain more often than before. Whether the sun is shining or the rain pouring down (most of the time). It is unbearable to open a box just to find nothing, nothing at all. We need a solution and we need it now!

Version 1, proof of concept

Take one standard mailbox like:

Hack together some electronics with IR-receivers:

The IR sender/receiver pairs are spaced at 9cm. The opening is 37cm. An A6 format postcard is 105x148.5mm, which means that any orientation will at least pass through one IR sender/receiver pair.

Send a pulsed beam of IR light to the receivers:

Add an indicator and reset option to the back:

Version 2, design of concept

Almost three years pass, depression is upon us, and then, suddenly, my neighbor remarks his snailmailbox is more empty than full and he just really dislikes opening an empty box. So it seems we need to make this a practical application after all.

Work in progress
Design of a PCB with all elements on board, including a solar cell connector so that you can run it without spending a fortune on batteries. This prototype PCB must be manually cut to get the receiver/sender parts seperated. The boards are 186x20mm and 186x8mm. The smaller board is the IR transmitter and should fit nicely under the opening of the snailmailbox. The design is made in thru-hole so it is optimal for hacker friendly use.

Component side:
comp side
Solder side:
comp side
Overengineering @ request