HOWTO: Make a Doctor Who "Bells of St John" Style WiFi Name

No spoilers, sweetie 🙂

This evening's Doctor Who - The Bells of St John - revolves around mysterious WiFi signals.

Alien SSIDs which, if you connect to them.... well, watch the episode to find out!

In the show, they look like these:
Doctor Who Wifi SSIDs
So, can we do the same thing for our home WiFi network? Yup!

Wifi Doctor Who Detail

There are some limitations though. SSIDs can only have a maximum length of 32 byte. Those are usually interpreted as 8-bit characters, so if you're using multibyte Unicode characters, you're reliant on the device doing the scanning interpreting the SSID correctly. You also rely on the device you're trying to connect being able to display the characters.

In this example, the Android device isn't able to render one of the glyphs correctly.
Android WiFi Unicode

Depending on your WiFi router, it may simply not accept characters outside the "normal" ASCII range.

I picked a Unicode string of "╦┐◤︻㍕┻═▄" but you, of course, can choose one which matches the TV show a little more closely - assuming you can find the right characters in the ever expanding Unicode set.

If you want something approaching the WiFi name from the start of the episode:
WiFi Name from start of Doctor Who

You can use "┓┏ 凵 =╱⊿┌┬┐"
Thanks to Nsurgnie on Reddit for figuring it out.


Update 2013-04-03.
Want to scare people outside of your house? You can use Android's WiFi hotspot to broadcast the SSID wherever you go!
Android Doctor Who Hotspot-fs8

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81 thoughts on “HOWTO: Make a Doctor Who "Bells of St John" Style WiFi Name”

      1. kevin says:

        Do you know how to get a pc to recognise this text? also what font type is this called?

          1. kevin says:

            I'm on windows 8 and have chrome updated to the latest version. I can see all the symbols on the link you posted but for some reason my pc doesnt read it when its being broadcast by my android phone

            1. codelion says:

              It's because for the most part computer's aren't designed to handle unicode in the SSID. A ways back there was a "prank" where you would do the same thing and it would crash mac's like crazy because they would try to display the unprotected network's SSID then crash because they couldn't.
              Ubuntu, on the other hand, shows it just fine. Linux FTW

    1. TheNobody says:

      For those restricted by keyboard characters, this could work:
      ][ [_] =/ /| [']

  1. kevin says:

    My pc doesnt recognize it but it appears on my android phone =] So I'm guessing it only shows up on mac?

      1. At first, I was thinking there was something wrong with my Ubuntu laptop. Unity, on a webpage not devoted to content about Linux and Ubuntu? But yes, there it is. Good Work, sir.

  2. says:

    This is a great idea - especially good as April Fools' is just around the corner. The only problem I have is that my router translates the symbols into things like "&#9491", and won't allow other devices to see it while scanning for Wi-Fi networks, unless they're using a wired connection. any ideas on why this happens?

    1. It really depends on which router you have. There's really no way we can help you unless you tell us

      • Router Make and Model
      • Software Version
      • If it's the latest version
      1. says:

        I have a Belkin 54g router, with firmware (my router admin page only links to firmware?) version 7.00.23, which is the not the latest version - when I try to upgrade to 7.00.24, it doesn't do anything and stays at '.23.
        The only thing I'm particularly wondering about is why it won't let devices connect when you change the SSID, but if you could help with both that and changing the SSID to symbols then you'd be a great help. Thank you!

  3. septamus says:

    I have a Netgear WNAP320 with firmware version 2.1.1
    When I try to enter the Unicode SSID it translates it into @ symbols and other characters. Is there any way of helping this?

  4. winston smith says:

    looks like routers running ddwrt will be unable to do this. oh well...

    1. DD-WRT should be able to.

      In the web interface, make a new virtual interface called "ath0.1".

      Then SSH in and issue this command
      root@DD-WRT:~# nvram set ath0.1_ssid="┓┏ 凵 =╱⊿┌┬┐"

      Go back to the web interface and hit "apply"

      It may give you an error, but it should start working.

      1. Jasper Capel says:

        I had to feed it the hex codes as the shell didn't like those characters. I also had to replace the space with the invisible character:

        # nvram set wl_ssid=$(echo -e 'xe2x94x93xe2x94x8fxe2x81xa3xe5x87xb5xe2x95xb1xe2x8axbfxe2x94x8cxe2x94xacxe2x94x90x0a')
        # nvram get wl_ssid

      2. Joseph Wilson says:

        SSH in? I'm not sure what that means..
        Is there any way I could just enter a command into the command box while logged into the router?

      3. Bill Ciphorce says:

        And for those of us who don't speak nerd, what did you just say? I don't know what ssh in or whatever even means. I know that allows me to enter a web based interface with my firefox, but I don't know anything of what you just said. How to do it in detail that normal people can understand plz.

        1. @edent says:

          Well Bill, it will depend on your router. Perhaps if you say what the make and model is, someone might be kind enough to help you.

  5. Ashley Renee says:

    I use a modem/router from Clear. The error message I'm getting is: "Some punctuations are not supported for Network Name (SSID). Please use characters or numbers." It doesn't look promising, but is there any way around it?

  6. says:

    Error: The Network Name must be a unique 1 to 32 character ASCII string
    and must NOT match any other SSID on this AP.

  7. anon2193 says:

    nice. I have a crappy belkin and had to edit the web interface javascript to disable unicode checks using chrome. The validator function is "evaltF", in wireless_id.html which calls some stuff in "routine_data.js". I replaced their custom "encodeURL" with javascript's encodeURI. No probs on the router end and devices that can read unicode see the proper result.

  8. Discodoris says:

    It wasn't actually figured out by nsurgnie, but by my partner - nsurgnie is a friend of both of us (we don't have reddit accounts) He goes by the nickname of Poki and I by Discodoris (hence the protected wifi account that is actually connected).

  9. I CLAVDIVS says:

    I have a tplink wr741nd, but when I try this it says "illegal ssid"
    please help

  10. Synnth says:

    Any suggestions on how to do this for a actiontec m1424 wr router? It just keeps telling me that "Service Set Identifier must consist of 1 to 32 characters and must not contain any special character."

  11. Synnth says:

    Ah. The firmware seems to be the newest version, so it looks like i'm out of luck. Oh well, thanks 🙂

  12. pjottrr says:

    in dd-wrt it's working fine, just use the wl ssid "......." command to set the wify name, don't touch the webinterface
    btw it doesn't seem putty understands the 256 bit ascii character set. ( if you paste it, you only get dots and spaces. You need to do this from a Linux or ssh native box

  13. ViRuS says:

    I could not get mine to work so I just called it "ViRuS" That should keep people from getting interested in it...

  14. Leis says:

    Hate to be another person asking for help doing this, but I have a Netgear WGT624v2 running the latest firmware. Is there any workaround, or is that it?

    1. That's a really old router, and it doesn't look like there is any DD-WRT support for it. It might be worth installing the Japanese firmware, as that may allow you to input non-ASCII characters in the SSID.

  15. alex says:

    ok I downloaded PUTTY, now how do I ssh into my router (tp link wr741nd). I have ddwrt firmware

  16. Jinn Ko says:

    Got it working on my MikroTik with RouterOS 5.24 with the following:

    /interface wireless set 1 ssid="E29493E2948FE281A3E587B5E295B1E28ABFE2948CE294ACE29490A"

  17. Batgrl2u says:

    I was able to change it in my router (Belkin F5D8236-4 v-2), and it shows up correctly. But, on all my wireless devices, the name shows up as "RT2860AP". Why is this?

  18. John Aisdias says:

    Windows 7 adhoc network (so I can take it around the city randomly) fails, I get a bunch of question marks and some +s and -s:

  19. Thanatos says:

    Working well on the mobile hotspot on my Galaxy S3. Haven't had a chance to try it on my Linksys router yet, since it's at the new house waiting for cable to be hooked up tomorrow 🙁

  20. Daniel says:

    I am using a FreedomPop sleeve (iPod 4th gen). The error I am getting is "The network name (ssid) contains 1 or more characters that are not valid." Any help would be appreciated.

  21. Peter Edwards says:

    I tried it using the hotspot on a Samsung Galaxy Nexus to link to my laptop. It shows a bunch of a's with triangles, upside down triangles and accent marks... How would I go about making it work?

    I've got a Toshiba laptop running Windows 7 by the way, if that helps...

    1. Your version of Windows may not be suitable. It certainly works on Mac and Linux. I suggest contacting Toshiba to see if there's a driver update for your WiFi.

  22. says:

    I'm on a Samsung R480 laptop with Windows 7 completely updated firefox and google chrome. I have a netgear wireless g-router WGR614v10 and it says that the characters are not allowed. I tried different languages installed on my language bar as well and those were also not allowed

  23. Roraigh Price says:

    my virgin super hub doesn't like this as a ssid -'┓┏ 凵 =╱⊿┌┬┐' what do i do i tried setting it up as a guest ssid. i cant find an update router in the control panel

  24. Bjarne Jensen says:

    D-Link 635, works 🙂
    Windows 7 - Internet access : No go, show something wired.
    Android Phones works.

  25. C. Blue says:

    Non-techie here . . . I can't help but notice that the article never actually tells readers *how* to do it; it just confirms that it can be done. I thought from the title there would be step by step instructions on HOW to change the name of the router to the special characters. Apparently, everyone commenting in already knows.

    1. Hi,
      As you can appreciate, there are hundreds of thousands of different routers - each with their own unique way of setting the name.

      I do presuppose a certain amount of technical knowledge, or prior experience of setting up your router. If all else fails, reading the manual usually works.


    1. You can try inputting them as escaped characters.

      For example:

  26. 2BlondieGirl says:

    even if i hadn't seen the episode i wouldn't want to click a link let alone a wifi thats like ┓┏ 凵 =╱⊿┌┬┐ is, i'd think it was full of viruses because it just seems weird, but because of doctor who i now have to fear something even worse than viruses

  27. Cloudane says:

    Doesn't show up right in the wifi menu on Windows 7 (just comes up as accented characters) but the one that TheNobody posted is more compatible. Depends I guess whether your target audience is likely to be Windows, Mac or Android users..

    What I'd like to do next, is make it open and set up one of those sign-in pages, you know like when you join "free" wifi in various places? But instead of a login box, have it display a weeping angel. Preferably a slow 2-frame gif... 🙂

  28. Robert says:

    Works on cisco 1142n AP's managed by 2504 controller running

  29. Actiontec centurylink model c1000a
    "The SSID must contain letters and/or numbers only with no spaces."

    i want this. don't know how with those lmittaions.

  30. Skye says:

    Did it with my Asus RT-AC87R using zoc6 mac app.. due to the fact built in telnet on the mac do not like the ┓┏ 凵 =╱⊿┌┬┐ and then using the following
    Telnet.. if you need help knowing how to turn on it..
    Enable Telnet by going to Advanced Settings > Administration > System > Enable Telnet and click on “Apply“

    Then in telnet once you connect to the router and login.. use the following.

    # nvram set wl1_ssid="┓┏ 凵 =╱⊿┌┬┐”
    # nvram commit
    # reboot

    For who do not know commands remove the # its just there so people know its a command.

    Thank you all above for the help that helped me get this whovain a happy wifi name.

  31. Zsomi8 says:

    Thank you, works perfectly fine. I share wifi with my phone, useing: ┓┏ 凵 =╱⊿┌┬┐ as SSID, 2 of my friends watch Doctor Who, I made them laugh with this 🙂

  32. Devin says:

    Amazing, +1. Did this for my phone, and its hilarious. Sometimes people see this and they look around, and then they uncomfortably look at their computer.

  33. Nate says:

    Am I wasting my time trying to do this for my phones hotspot or is there a way? I have an HTC Desire 510

    1. Terence Eden says:

      It *might* work. I'd suggest upgrading your phone if it doesn't.


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