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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Secrets of the Little Blue Box

I know, this is long... and it the whole thing is even longer! But, once I started reading, I couldn't stop till the end. Well, actually I started looking up the people in the article and kept on reading about Phone Phreaks for hours!:) I remembered seeing a few references to something like these Blue Boxes, years ago. I knew they supposedly could place free Long Distance Phone Calls. But, I never knew if they were real or just some fake product advertised in the back of a Magazine. Remember when magazines were printed on Bright and Shiny Paper? And the Cheap and Seedy ones were just printed on News Paper, maybe with a little Color Added??? Well, these were the days and these were the Phone Phreaks. The Original Hackers!...


“Secrets of the Little Blue Box”
The 1971 article about phone hacking that inspired Steve Jobs.

By Ron Rosenbaum|Posted Friday, Oct. 7, 2011, at 4:19 PM ET
A blue box similar to the ones that Jobs and Wozniak sold in the 1970s. A blue box similar to the ones that Jobs and Wozniak sold in the 1970s.

In 1971, Slate columnist Ron Rosenbaum wrote an article for Esquire about a loose confederation of proto-hackers who built devices—little blue boxes—that could crack phone networks. According the New York Times obituary of Apple founder Steve Jobs, after reading Rosenbaum’s article, Jobs and his partner in founding Apple, Steve Wozniak, “collaborated on building and selling blue boxes, devices that were widely used for making free—and illegal—phone calls. They raised a total of $6,000 from the effort.” The original 1971 article, “Secrets of the Little Blue Box,” is reprinted below, with permission from the author. It’s also available in Rosenbaum’s collection The Secret Parts of Fortune. Also in Slate: Rosenbaum reflects on the article that inspired Steve Jobs.

The above was from... Read all in a SINGLE PAGE (but this version leaves some paragraphs out. Below is a page with the full Article... 

And there is a 50 minute Video that starts out about Phone Phreaks and then moves on to Early Computer Hackers here... It's interesting, but the Article Below “Secrets of the Little Blue Box” is Completely Inthralling to me. So don't skip reading it!:)


The Secret History of Hacking (Complete)

Discovery Channel

History of Hacking
See Steve Wozniak, John Draper and Kevin Mitnick interviewed in a documentary that reviews great landmarks of the history of hacking. Know first hand the opinion of these pioneers on a subject dismissed in the past as a dark subculture. Video Link...
As published in the October 1971 issue of Esquire Magazine.

Secrets of the Little Blue Box

by Ron Rosenbaum

A story so incredible it may even make you feel sorry for the phone company

The Blue Box Is Introduced:
Its Qualities Are Remarked

I am in the expensively furnished living room of Al Gilbertson*, the creator of the "blue box." Gilbertson is holding one of his shiny black-and-silver "blue boxes" comfortably in the palm of his hand, pointing out the thirteen little red push buttons sticking up from the console. He is dancing his fingers over the buttons, tapping out discordant beeping electronic jingles. He is trying to explain to me how his little blue box does nothing less than place the entire telephone system of the world, satellites, cables and all, at the service of the blue-box operator, free of charge.

"That's what it does. Essentially it gives you the power of a super operator. You seize a tandem with this top button," he presses the top button with his index finger and the blue box emits a high-pitched cheep, "and like that" — cheep goes the blue box again — "you control the phone company's long-distance switching systems from your cute little Princess phone or any old pay phone. And you've got anonymity. An operator has to operate from a definite location: the phone company knows where she is and what she's doing. But with your beeper box, once you hop onto a trunk, say from a Holiday Inn 800 [toll-free] number, they don't know where you are, or where you're coming from, they don't know how you slipped into their lines and popped up in that 800 number. They don't even know anything illegal is going on. And you can obscure your origins through as many levels as you like. You can call next door by way of White Plains, then over to Liverpool by cable, and then back here by satellite. You can call yourself from one pay phone all the way around the world to a pay phone next to you. And you get your dime back too."

"And they can't trace the calls? They can't charge you?"

"Not if you do it the right way. But you'll find that the free-call thing isn't really as exciting at first as the feeling of power you get from having one of these babies in your hand. I've watched people when they first get hold of one of these things and start using it, and discover they can make connections, set up crisscross and zigzag switching patterns back and forth across the world. They hardly talk to the people they finally reach. They say hello and start thinking of what kind of call to make next. They go a little crazy." He looks down at the neat little package in his palm. His fingers are still dancing, tapping out beeper patterns.

"I think it's something to do with how small my models are. There are lots of blue boxes around, but mine are the smallest and most sophisticated electronically. I wish I could show you the prototype we made for our big syndicate order."

He sighs. "We had this order for a thousand beeper boxes from a syndicate front man in Las Vegas. They use them to place bets coast to coast, keep lines open for hours, all of which can get expensive if you have to pay. The deal was a thousand blue boxes for $300 apiece. Before then we retailed them for $1,500 apiece, but $300,000 in one lump was hard to turn down. We had a manufacturing deal worked out in the Philippines. Everything ready to go. Anyway, the model I had ready for limited mass production was small enough to fit inside a flip-top Marlboro box. It had flush touch panels for a keyboard, rather than these unsightly buttons sticking out. Looked just like a tiny portable radio. In fact, I had designed it with a tiny transistor receiver to get one AM channel, so in case the law became suspicious the owner could switch on the radio part, start snapping his fingers, and no one could tell anything illegal was going on. I thought of everything for this model — I had it lined with a band of thermite which could be ignited by radio signal from a tiny button transmitter on your belt, so it could be burned to ashes instantly in case of a bust. It was beautiful. A beautiful little machine. You should have seen the faces on these syndicate guys when they came back after trying it out. They'd hold it in their palm like they never wanted to let it go, and they'd say, 'I can't believe it. I can't believe it.' You probably won't believe it until you try it."

The Blue Box Is Tested:
Certain Connections Are Made

About eleven o'clock two nights later Fraser Lucey has a blue box in the palm of his left hand and a phone in the palm of his right. He is standing inside a phone booth next to an isolated shut-down motel off Highway 1. I am standing outside the phone booth.

Fraser likes to show off his blue box for people. Until a few weeks ago when Pacific Telephone made a few arrests in his city, Fraser Lucey liked to bring his blue box** to parties. It never failed: a few cheeps from his device and Fraser became the center of attention at the very hippest of gatherings, playing phone tricks and doing request numbers for hours. He began to take orders for his manufacturer in Mexico. He became a dealer.

Fraser is cautious now about where he shows off his blue box. But he never gets tired of playing with it. "It's like the first time every time," he tells me.

Fraser puts a dime in the slot. He listens for a tone and holds the receiver up to my ear. I hear the tone.

Fraser begins describing, with a certain practiced air, what he does while he does it.

"I'm dialing an 800 number now. Any 800 number will do. It's toll free. Tonight I think I'll use the ----- [he names a well-know rent-a-car company] 800 number. Listen, It's ringing. Here, you hear it? Now watch."

He places the blue box over the mouthpiece of the phone so that the one silver and twelve black push buttons are facing up toward me. He presses the silver button — the one at the top — and I hear that high-pitched beep.

"That's 2600 cycles per second to be exact," says Lucey. "Now, quick. listen."

He shoves the earpiece at me. The ringing has vanished. The line gives a slight hiccough, there is a sharp buzz, and then nothing but soft white noise.

"We're home free now," Lucey tells me, taking back the phone and applying the blue box to its mouthpiece once again. "We're up on a tandem, into a long-lines trunk. Once you're up on a tandem, you can send yourself anywhere you want to go." He decides to check out London first. He chooses a certain pay phone located in Waterloo Station. This particular pay phone is popular with the phone-phreaks network because there are usually people walking by at all hours who will pick it up and talk for a while.

He presses the lower left-hand corner button which is marked "KP" on the face of the box.

"That's Key Pulse. It tells the tandem we're ready to give it instructions. First I'll punch out KP 182 START, which will slide us into the overseas sender in White Plains." I hear a neat clunk-cheep. "I think we'll head over to England by satellite. Cable is actually faster and the connection is somewhat better, but I like going by satellite. So I just punch out KP Zero 44. The Zero is supposed to guarantee a satellite connection and 44 is the country code for England. Okay . . . we're there. In Liverpool actually. Now all I have to do is punch out the London area code which is 1, and dial up the pay phone. Here, listen, I've got a ring now."

I hear the soft quick purr-purr of a London ring. Then someone picks up the phone. "Hello," says the London voice.

"Hello. Who's this?" Fraser asks.

"Hello. There's actually nobody here. I just picked this up while I was passing by. This is a public phone. There's no one here to answer actually."

"Hello. Don't hang up. I'm calling from the United States."

"Oh. What is the purpose of the call? This is a public phone you know."

"Oh. You know. To check out, uh, to find out what's going on in London. How is it there?"

"Its five o'clock in the morning. It's raining now."

"Oh. Who are you?"

The London passerby turns out to be an R.A.F. enlistee on his way back to the base in Lincolnshire, with a terrible hangover after a thirty-six-hour pass. He and Fraser talk about the rain. They agree that it's nicer when it's not raining. They say good-bye and Fraser hangs up. His dime returns with a nice clink.

"Isn't that far out," he says grinning at me. "London. Like that."

Fraser squeezes the little blue box affectionately in his palm. "I told ya this thing is for real. Listen, if you don't mind I'm gonna try this girl I know in Paris. I usually give her a call around this time. It freaks her out. This time I'll use the ------ (a different rent-a-car company) 800 number and we'll go by overseas cable, 133; 33 is the country code for France, the 1 sends you by cable. Okay, here we go.... Oh damn. Busy. Who could she be talking to at this time?"

A state police car cruises slowly by the motel. The car does not stop, but Fraser gets nervous. We hop back into his car and drive ten miles in the opposite direction until we reach a Texaco station locked up for the night. We pull up to a phone booth by the tire pump. Fraser dashes inside and tries the Paris number. It is busy again.

"I don't understand who she could be talking to. The circuits may be busy. It's too bad I haven't learned how to tap into lines overseas with this thing yet."

Fraser begins to phreak around, as the phone phreaks say. He dials a leading nationwide charge card's 800 number and punches out the tones that bring him the Time recording in Sydney, Australia. He beeps up the Weather recording in Rome, in Italian of course. He calls a friend in Boston and talks about a certain over-the-counter stock they are into heavily. He finds the Paris number busy again. He calls up "Dial a Disc" in London, and we listen to Double Barrel by David and Ansil Collins, the number-one hit of the week in London. He calls up a dealer of another sort and talks in code. He calls up Joe Engressia, the original blind phone-phreak genius, and pays his respects. There are other calls. Finally Fraser gets through to his young lady in Paris. They both agree the circuits must have been busy, and criticize the Paris telephone system. At two-thirty in the morning Fraser hangs up, pockets his dime, and drives off, steering with one hand, holding what he calls his "lovely little blue box" in the other.

You Can Call Long Distance for
Less Than You Think

"You see, a few years ago the phone company made one big mistake," Gilbertson explains two days later in his apartment. "They were careless enough to let some technical journal publish the actual frequencies used to create all their multi-frequency tones. Just a theoretical article some Bell Telephone Laboratories engineer was doing about switching theory, and he listed the tones in passing. At ----- [a well-known technical school] I had been fooling around with phones for several years before I came across a copy of the journal in the engineering library. I ran back to the lab and it took maybe twelve hours from the time I saw that article to put together the first working blue box. It was bigger and clumsier than this little baby, but it worked."

It's all there on public record in that technical journal written mainly by Bell Lab people for other telephone engineers. Or at least it was public. "Just try and get a copy of that issue at some engineering-school library now. Bell has had them all red-tagged and withdrawn from circulation," Gilbertson tells me.

"But it's too late. It's all public now. And once they became public the technology needed to create your own beeper device is within the range of any twelve-year-old kid, any twelve-year-old blind kid as a matter of fact. And he can do it in less than the twelve hours it took us. Blind kids do it all the time. They can't build anything as precise and compact as my beeper box, but theirs can do anything mine can do."


"Okay. About twenty years ago A.T.&T. made a multi-billion-dollar decision to operate its entire long-distance switching system on twelve electronically generated combinations of six master tones. Those are the tones you sometimes hear in the background after you've dialed a long-distance number. They decided to use some very simple tones — the tone for each number is just two fixed single-frequency tones played simultaneously to create a certain beat frequency. Like 1300 cycles per second and 900 cycles per second played together give you the tone for digit 5. Now, what some of these phone phreaks have done is get themselves access to an electric organ. Any cheap family home-entertainment organ. Since the frequencies are public knowledge now — one blind phone phreak has even had them recorded in one of those talking books for the blind — they just have to find the musical notes on the organ which correspond to the phone tones. Then they tape them. For instance, to get Ma Bell's tone for the number 1, you press down organ keys F5 and A5 [900 and 700 cycles per second] at the same time. To produce the tone for 2 it's F5 and C6 [1100 and 700 c.p.s]. The phone phreaks circulate the whole list of notes so there's no trial and error anymore."

He shows me a list of the rest of the phone numbers and the two electric organ keys that produce them.

"Actually, you have to record these notes at 3¾ inches-per-second tape speed and double it to 7½ inches-per-second when you play them back, to get the proper tones," he adds.

"So once you have all the tones recorded, how do you plug them into the phone system?"

"Well, they take their organ and their cassette recorder, and start banging out entire phone numbers in tones on the organ, including country codes, routing instructions, 'KP' and 'Start' tones. Or, if they don't have an organ, someone in the phone-phreak network sends them a cassette with all the tones recorded, with a voice saying 'Number one,' then you have the tone, 'Number two,' then the tone and so on. So with two cassette recorders they can put together a series of phone numbers by switching back and forth from number to number. Any idiot in the country with a cheap cassette recorder can make all the free calls he wants."

"You mean you just hold the cassette recorder up the mouthpiece and switch in a series of beeps you've recorded? The phone thinks that anything that makes these tones must be its own equipment?"

"Right. As long as you get the frequency within thirty cycles per second of the phone company's tones, the phone equipment thinks it hears its own voice talking to it. The original granddaddy phone phreak was this blind kid with perfect pitch, Joe Engressia, who used to whistle into the phone. An operator could tell the difference between his whistle and the phone company's electronic tone generator, but the phone company's switching circuit can't tell them apart. The bigger the phone company gets and the further away from human operators it gets, the more vulnerable it becomes to all sorts of phone phreaking."

A Guide for the Perplexed

"But wait a minute," I stop Gilbertson. "If everything you do sounds like phone-company equipment, why doesn't the phone company charge you for the call the way it charges its own equipment?"

"Okay. That's where the 2600-cycle tone comes in. I better start from the beginning."

The beginning he describes for me is a vision of the phone system of the continent as thousands of webs, of long-line trunks radiating from each of the hundreds of toll switching offices to the other toll switching offices. Each toll switching office is a hive compacted of thousands of long-distance tandems constantly whistling and beeping to tandems in far-off toll switching offices.

The tandem is the key to the whole system. Each tandem is a line with some relays with the capability of signaling any other tandem in any other toll switching office on the continent, either directly one-to-one or by programming a roundabout route through several other tandems if all the direct routes are busy. For instance, if you want to call from New York to Los Angeles and traffic is heavy on all direct trunks between the two cities, your tandem in New York is programmed to try the next best route, which may send you down to a tandem in New Orleans, then up to San Francisco, or down to a New Orleans tandem, back to an Atlanta tandem, over to an Albuquerque tandem and finally up to Los Angeles.

When a tandem is not being used, when it's sitting there waiting for someone to make a long-distance call, it whistles. One side of the tandem, the side "facing" your home phone, whistles at 2600 cycles per second toward all the home phones serviced by the exchange, telling them it is at their service, should they be interested in making a long-distance call. The other side of the tandem is whistling 2600 c.p.s. into one or more long-distance trunk lines, telling the rest of the phone system that it is neither sending nor receiving a call through that trunk at the moment, that it has no use for that trunk at the moment.

"When you dial a long-distance number the first thing that happens is that you are hooked into a tandem. A register comes up to the side of the tandem facing away from you and presents that side with the number you dialed. This sending side of the tandem stops whistling 2600 into its trunk line. When a tandem stops the 2600 tone it has been sending through a trunk, the trunk is said to be "seized," and is now ready to carry the number you have dialed — converted into multi-frequency beep tones — to a tandem in the area code and central office you want.

Now when a blue-box operator wants to make a call from New Orleans to New York he starts by dialing the 800 number of a company which might happen to have its headquarters in Los Angeles. The sending side of the New Orleans tandem stops sending 2600 out over the trunk to the central office in Los Angeles, thereby seizing the trunk. Your New Orleans tandem begins sending beep tones to a tandem it has discovered idly whistling 2600 cycles in Los Angeles. The receiving end of that L.A. tandem is seized, stops whistling 2600, listens to the beep tones which tell it which L.A. phone to ring, and starts ringing the 800 number. Meanwhile a mark made in the New Orleans office accounting tape notes that a call from your New Orleans phone to the 800 number in L.A. has been initiated and gives the call a code number. Everything is routine so far.

But then the phone phreak presses his blue box to the mouthpiece and pushes the 2600-cycle button, sending 2600 out from the New Orleans tandem to the L.A. tandem. The L.A. tandem notices 2600 cycles are coming over the line again and assumes that New Orleans has hung up because the trunk is whistling as if idle. The L.A. tandem immediately ceases ringing the L.A. 800 number. But as soon as the phreak takes his finger off the 2600 button, the L.A. tandem assumes the trunk is once again being used because the 2600 is gone, so it listens for a new series of digit tones — to find out where it must send the call.

Thus the blue-box operator in New Orleans now is in touch with a tandem in L.A. which is waiting like an obedient genie to be told what to do next. The blue-box owner then beeps out the ten digits of the New York number which tell the L.A. tandem to relay a call to New York City. Which it promptly does. As soon as your party picks up the phone in New York, the side of the New Orleans tandem facing you stops sending 2600 cycles to you and stars carrying his voice to you by way of the L.A. tandem. A notation is made on the accounting tape that the connection has been made on the 800 call which had been initiated and noted earlier. When you stop talking to New York a notation is made that the 800 call has ended.

At three the next morning, when the phone company's accounting computer starts reading back over the master accounting tape for the past day, it records that a call of a certain length of time was made from your New Orleans home to an L.A. 800 number and, of course, the accounting computer has been trained to ignore those toll-free 800 calls when compiling your monthly bill.

"All they can prove is that you made an 800 toll-free call," Gilbertson the inventor concludes. "Of course, if you're foolish enough to talk for two hours on an 800 call, and they've installed one of their special anti-fraud computer programs to watch out for such things, they may spot you and ask why you took two hours talking to Army Recruiting's 800 number when you're 4-F. But if you do it from a pay phone, they may discover something peculiar the next day — if they've got a blue-box hunting program in their computer — but you'll be a long time gone from the pay phone by then. Using a pay phone is almost guaranteed safe."

"What about the recent series of blue-box arrests all across the country — New York, Cleveland, and so on?" I asked. "How were they caught so easily?"

"From what I can tell, they made one big mistake: they were seizing trunks using an area code plus 555-1212 instead of an 800 number. Using 555 is easy to detect because when you send multi-frequency beep tones of 555 you get a charge for it on your tape and the accounting computer knows there's something wrong when it tries to bill you for a two-hour call to Akron, Ohio, information, and it drops a trouble card which goes right into the hands of the security agent if they're looking for blue-box users.

"Whoever sold those guys their blue boxes didn't tell them how to use them properly, which is fairly irresponsible. And they were fairly stupid to use them at home all the time.

"But what those arrests really mean is that an awful lot of blue boxes are flooding into the country and that people are finding them so easy to make that they know how to make them before they know how to use them. Ma Bell is in trouble."

And if a blue-box operator or a cassette-recorder phone phreak sticks to pay phones and 800 numbers, the phone company can't stop them?

"Not unless they change their entire nationwide long-lines technology, which will take them a few billion dollars and twenty years. Right now they can't do a thing. They're screwed."

Captain Crunch Demonstrates His Famous Unit

There is an underground telephone network in this country. Gilbertson discovered it the very day news of his activities hit the papers. That evening his phone began ringing. Phone phreaks from Seattle, from Florida, from New York, from San Jose, and from Los Angeles began calling him and telling him about the phone-phreak network. He'd get a call from a phone phreak who'd say nothing but, "Hang up and call this number."

When he dialed the number he'd find himself tied into a conference of a dozen phone phreaks arranged through a quirky switching station in British Columbia. They identified themselves as phone phreaks, they demonstrated their homemade blue boxes which they called "M-F-ers" (for "multi-frequency," among other things) for him, they talked shop about phone-phreak devices. They let him in on their secrets on the theory that if the phone company was after him he must be trustworthy. And, Gilbertson recalls, they stunned him with their technical sophistication.

I ask him how to get in touch with the phone-phreak network. He digs around through a file of old schematics and comes up with about a dozen numbers in three widely separated area codes.

"Those are the centers," he tells me. Alongside some of the numbers he writes in first names or nicknames: names like Captain Crunch, Dr. No, Frank Carson (also a code word for a free call), Marty Freeman (code word for M-F device), Peter Perpendicular Pimple, Alefnull, and The Cheshire Cat. He makes checks alongside the names of those among these top twelve who are blind. There are five checks.

I ask him who this Captain Crunch person is.

"Oh. The Captain. He's probably the most legendary phone phreak. He calls himself Captain Crunch after the notorious Cap'n Crunch 2600 whistle." (Several years ago, Gilbertson explains, the makers of Cap'n Crunch breakfast cereal offered a toy-whistle prize in every box as a treat for the Cap'n Crunch set. Somehow a phone phreak discovered that the toy whistle just happened to produce a perfect 2600-cycle tone. When the man who calls himself Captain Crunch was transferred overseas to England with his Air Force unit, he would receive scores of calls from his friends and "mute" them — make them free of charge to them — by blowing his Cap'n Crunch whistle into his end.)

"Captain Crunch is one of the older phone phreaks," Gilbertson tells me. "He's an engineer who once got in a little trouble for fooling around with the phone, but he can't stop. Well, this guy drives across country in a Volkswagen van with an entire switchboard and a computerized super-sophisticated M-F-er in the back. He'll pull up to a phone booth on a lonely highway somewhere, snake a cable out of his bus, hook it onto the phone and sit for hours, days sometimes, sending calls zipping back and forth across the country, all over the world...."

Back at my motel, I dialed the number he gave me for "Captain Crunch" and asked for G---- T-----, his real name, or at least the name he uses when he's not dashing into a phone booth beeping out M-F tones faster than a speeding bullet, and zipping phantomlike through the phone company's long-distance lines.

When G---- T----- answered the phone and I told him I was preparing a story for Esquire about phone phreaks, he became very indignant.

"I don't do that. I don't do that anymore at all. And if I do it, I do it for one reason and one reason only. I'm learning about a system. The phone company is a System. A computer is a System. Do you understand? If I do what I do, it is only to explore a System. Computers. Systems. That's my bag. The phone company is nothing but a computer."

A tone of tightly restrained excitement enters the Captain's voice when he starts talking about Systems. He begins to pronounce each syllable with the hushed deliberation of an obscene caller.

"Ma Bell is a system I want to explore. It's a beautiful system, you know, but Ma Bell screwed up. It's terrible because Ma Bell is such a beautiful system, but she screwed up. I learned how she screwed up from a couple of blind kids who wanted me to build a device. A certain device. They said it could make free calls. I wasn't interested in free calls. But when these blind kids told me I could make calls into a computer, my eyes lit up. I wanted to learn about computers. I wanted to learn about Ma Bell's computers. So I built the little device. Only I built it wrong and Ma Bell found out. Ma Bell can detect things like that. Ma Bell knows. So I'm strictly out of it now. I don't do it. Except for learning purposes." He pauses. "So you want to write an article. Are you paying for this call? Hang up and call this number."

He gives me a number in an area code a thousand miles north of his own. I dial the number.

"Hello again. This is Captain Crunch. You are speaking to me on a toll-free loop-around in Portland, Oregon. Do you know what a toll-free loop around is? I'll tell you."

He explains to me that almost every exchange in the country has open test numbers which allow other exchanges to test their connections with it. Most of these numbers occur in consecutive pairs, such as 302 956-0041 and 956-0042. Well, certain phone phreaks discovered that if two people from anywhere in the country dial those two consecutive numbers they can talk together just as if one had called the other's number, with no charge to either of them, of course.

"Your voice is looping around in a 4A switching machine up there in Canada, zipping back down to me," the Captain tells me. "My voice is looping around up there and back down to you. And it can't ever cost anyone money. The phone phreaks and I have compiled a list of many many of these numbers. You would be surprised if you saw the list. I could show it to you. But I won't. I'm out of that now. I'm not out to screw Ma Bell. I know better. If I do anything it's for the pure knowledge of the System. You can learn to do fantastic things. Have you ever heard eight tandems stacked up? Do you know the sound of tandems stacking and unstacking? Give me your phone number. Okay. Hang up now and wait a minute."

Slightly less than a minute later the phone rang and the Captain was on the line, his voice sounding far more excited, almost aroused.

"I wanted to show you what it's like to stack up tandems. To stack up tandems." (Whenever the Captain says "stack up" it sounds as if he is licking his lips.)

"How do you like the connection you're on now?" the Captain asks me. "It's a raw tandem. A raw tandem. Ain't nothin' up to it but a tandem. Now I'm going to show you what it's like to stack up. Blow off. Land in a far away place. To stack that tandem up, whip back and forth across the country a few times, then shoot on up to Moscow.

"Listen," Captain Crunch continues. "Listen. I've got a line tie on my switchboard here, and I'm gonna let you hear me stack and unstack tandems. Listen to this. It's gonna blow your mind."

First I hear a super rapid-fire pulsing of the flutelike phone tones, then a pause, then another popping burst of tones, then another, then another. Each burst is followed by a beep-kachink sound.

"We have now stacked up four tandems," said Captain Crunch, sounding somewhat remote. "That's four tandems stacked up. Do you know what that means? That means I'm whipping back and forth, back and forth twice, across the country, before coming to you. I've been known to stack up twenty tandems at a time. Now, just like I said, I'm going to shoot up to Moscow."

There is a new, longer series of beeper pulses over the line, a brief silence, then a ring.

"Hello," answers a far-off voice.

"Hello. Is this the American Embassy Moscow?"

"Yes, sir. Who is this calling?" says the voice.

"Yes. This is test board here in New York. We're calling to check out the circuits, see what kind of lines you've got. Everything okay there in Moscow?"


"Well, yes, how are things there?"

"Oh. Well, everything's okay, I guess."

"Okay. Thank you." They hang up, leaving a confused series of beep-kachink sounds hanging in mid-ether in the wake of the call before dissolving away.

The Captain is pleased. "You believe me now, don't you? Do you know what I'd like to do? I'd like to call up your editor at Esquire and show him just what it sounds like to stack and unstack tandems. I'll give him a show that will blow his mind. What's his number?"

I ask the Captain what kind of device he was using to accomplish all his feats. The Captain is pleased at the question.

"You could tell it was special, couldn't you? Ten pulses per second. That's faster than the phone company's equipment. Believe me, this unit is the most famous unit in the country. There is no other unit like it. Believe me."

"Yes, I've heard about it. Some other phone phreaks have told me about it."

"They have been referring to my, ahem, unit? What is it they said? Just out of curiosity, did they tell you it was a highly sophisticated computer-operated unit, with acoustical coupling for receiving outputs and a switch-board with multiple-line-tie capability? Did they tell you that the frequency tolerance is guaranteed to be not more than .05 percent? The amplitude tolerance less than .01 decibel? Those pulses you heard were perfect. They just come faster than the phone company. Those were high-precision op-amps. Op-amps are instrumentation amplifiers designed for ultra-stable amplification, super-low distortion and accurate frequency response. Did they tell you it can operate in temperatures from -55ºC to +125ºC?"

I admit that they did not tell me all that.

"I built it myself," the Captain goes on. "If you were to go out and buy the components from an industrial wholesaler it would cost you at least $1,500. I once worked for a semiconductor company and all this didn't cost me a cent. Do you know what I mean? Did they tell you about how I put a call completely around the world? I'll tell you how I did it. I M-F-ed Tokyo inward, who connected me to India, India connected me to Greece, Greece connected me to Pretoria, South Africa, South Africa connected me to South America, I went from South America to London, I had a London operator connect me to a New York operator, I had New York connect me to a California operator who rang the phone next to me. Needless to say I had to shout to hear myself. But the echo was far out. Fantastic. Delayed. It was delayed twenty seconds, but I could hear myself talk to myself."

"You mean you were speaking into the mouthpiece of one phone sending your voice around the world into your ear through a phone on the other side of your head?" I asked the Captain. I had a vision of something vaguely autoerotic going on, in a complex electronic way.

"That's right," said the Captain. "I've also sent my voice around the world one way, going east on one phone, and going west on the other, going through cable one way, satellite the other, coming back together at the same time, ringing the two phones simultaneously and picking them up and whipping my voice both ways around the world back to me. Wow. That was a mind blower."

"You mean you sit there with both phones on your ear and talk to yourself around the world," I said incredulously.

"Yeah. Um hum. That's what I do. I connect the phones together and sit there and talk."

"What do you say? What do you say to yourself when you're connected?"

"Oh, you know. Hello test one two three," he says in a low-pitched voice.

"Hello test one two three," he replied to himself in a high-pitched voice.

"Hello test one two three," he repeats again, low-pitched.

"Hello test one two three," he replies, high-pitched.

"I sometimes do this: Hello hello hello hello, hello, hello," he trails off and breaks into laughter.

Why Captain Crunch Hardly Ever
Taps Phones Anymore

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John Draper

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John T. Draper

Captain Crunch, Crunch and Crunchman or Mr. Crunchtastic
Born 1943 (1943)
Website &

John Thomas Draper (born 1943), also known as Captain Crunch, Crunch or Crunchman (after Cap'n Crunch, the mascot of a breakfast cereal), is an American computer programmer and former phone phreak. He is a legendary figure within the computer programming world.



Josef Carl Engressia, Jr. - Joybubbles

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Joybubbles (May 25, 1949(1949-05-25) – August 8, 2007(2007-08-08)), born Josef Carl Engressia, Jr. in Richmond, Virginia, USA, was an early phone phreak. Born blind, he became interested in telephones at age four. Gifted with absolute pitch, he was able to whistle 2600 hertz into a telephone (see Blue box). Joybubbles said that he had an IQ of “172 or something.” [1] Joybubbles died at his Minneapolis home on August 8, 2007(2007-08-08) (aged 58). According to his death certificate,[2] he died of "natural causes" with "congestive heart failure" as a contributing condition. The character of Whistler, played by David Strathairn in the film Sneakers, is based directly on Engressia.[3]



[edit] Whistler

As a five-year old, Engressia discovered he could dial phone numbers by clicking the hang-up switch (“tapping”), and at the age of 7 he accidentally discovered that whistling at certain frequencies could activate phone switches.[4]

A student at the University of South Florida in the late 1960s, he was given the nickname “Whistler,” due to his ability to place free long distance phone calls by whistling, with his mouth, the proper tones. After a Canadian operator reported him for selling such calls for $1 at the university, he was suspended and fined $25, but soon reinstated;[4] he later graduated in philosophy and moved to Tennessee.

According to FBI records, the phone company SBT&T first noticed his phreaking activities in summer 1968, and an employee of the Florida Bell Telephone Company illegally monitored Engressia’s telephone conversations and divulged them to the FBI.[4]

After law enforcement raided his house, he was charged with malicious mischief, given a suspended sentence, and quickly abandoned phreaking.

[edit] Childhood abuse and becoming Joybubbles


Phone Trips

Greetings fellow web trippers, my phone phreak handle is Mark Bernay and 35 years ago I used to go on phone trips. Yes, it's true: just like the people in the picture at the top, I would drive around to small towns primarily for the purpose of playing with their payphones. I often brought along my trusty Craig 212 portable 3-inch reel-to-reel tape recorder (this was before cassettes were popular) to record the phone noises and narrate information about them for my friends. I don't go on phone trips anymore and you are probably thinking that this is because I grew up, but no, I never did. The reason I stopped phone tripping is that all phones are about the same all over the country nowadays and they are really boring.

Go there to listen and download many Original Phone Phreaks Recordings...

Phreaking is a slang term coined to describe the activity of a culture of people who study, experiment with, or explore telecommunication systems, such as equipment and systems connected to public telephone networks. As telephone networks have become computerized, phreaking has become closely linked with computer hacking.[1] This is sometimes called the H/P culture (with H standing for hacking and P standing for phreaking).

The term phreak is a portmanteau of the words phone and freak, and may also refer to the use of various audio frequencies to manipulate a phone system. Phreak, phreaker, or phone phreak are names used for and by individuals who participate in phreaking. A large percentage of the phone Phreaks were blind.[2][3] Because identities were usually masked, an exact percentage cannot be calculated.



Everybody is familiar with the popular 'Blue Box', but not many realize that there are many different 'boxes' that have been created over the years. If I have omitted any, please send me some email.

Steal Three-Way-Calling, Call Waiting and programmable Call Forwarding on old 4-wire phone systems
Drain the voltage of the FBI lock-in-trace/trap-trace
Lineman's hand set
Allows the calling party to not be billed for the call placed
Phone microphone amplifier
Supposedly shorts every phone out in the immediate area
Emulate a true operator by seizing a trunk with a 2600 Hz tone
Refers to an old scam in which a phone number will ring in two different locations, only one of which is known by the phone company. Often used by "bookies" to avoid police raids during the 1930's
Create a party line from 2 phone lines
Tap into your neighbors phone line
Renders the attached phone line inoperative; outside calls get a busy signal
Use the electricity from your phone line
Connect two phones to create a diverter
Manipulate Traffic Signals by Remote Control
A telephone pickup coil and a small amp use to make free calls on Fortress Phones
Line activated telephone recorder
Cause crosstalk interference on an extender
Hold button
Re-route outgoing or incoming calls to another phone
Connect to your neighbors phone line
Re-route outgoing or incoming calls to another phone
Create a party line from 2 phone lines
Dial-out router
Gives a greater range to wireless phones
Combination Aqua, Chartreuse, and Brown (with 4-way calling)
Emulate the Coin Collect, Coin Return, and Ringback tones
Generates payphone quarter tones using a Hallmark recordable greeting card
Remotely activated phone tap
Touch-Tone key pad
In-use light
Simulate FBI lock and trace
Increases the volume on your handset; for conference calls
AM transmitter
Connect a remote phone line to another remote phone line
Phone tap without cutting into a line
External microphone
Create line noise
External ringer
Create a party line from 2 phone lines
Tone generator
Create a party line from 2 phone lines
Allow Touch-Tone dialing on a pulse line
Telephone hold button
Kill a trace by putting 120v into the phone line (joke)
Tap into your neighbors phone
Make free phone calls from pay phones by generating quarter tones
Add music to your phone line
Cause a neighbors phone line to have poor reception
Create the DTMF tones for A, B, C and D
Television transmitter
Keep the voltage on a phone line high (reduces static)
Add hold, indicator lights, conferencing, etc.
Combination Beige, Bud, and Day-Glo with enhancements
Line activated telephone recorder
Reverse the phase of power to your house, causing your electric meter to run slower
TV Cable
"See" sound waves on your TV
Create a capacitative disturbance between the ring and tip wires in another's telephone headset
Keep a payphone from hanging up
Portable DTMF keypad
Add an extension phone

--> Back to the Esquire article...

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Phone Phreaking a culture of people who study, experiment with, or explore telecommunication systems
The article that inspired Steve Jobs: “Secrets of the Little Blue Box” - Slate Magazine
joe engressia - Google Search
RIP Joe Engressia, the original Phone Phreak – Bad Science
Joybubbles - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Phreaking - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Joybubbles, 58, Peter Pan of Phone Hackers, Dies - New York Times
Phreaking - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
File:Blue Box in museum.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Blue box - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bell System Technical Journal - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sneakers (film) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
john draper (captain crunch) - Google Search
john draper captain crunch - Google Search
John Draper - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
John Draper - Captain Crunch
John Draper Interviewed Early 1995
John Draper (John Draper [AKA CAPTAIN CRUNCH]) on Myspace
CrunchTV Video by John Draper [AKA CAPTAIN CRUNCH] - Myspace Video
Lola Blanc - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Steve Jobs and the Little Blue Box: How Ron Rosenbaum’s 1971 article about phone phreaks helped launch Apple. - Slate Magazine
Secrets of the Little Blue Box
Glossary of 'Box' terms
Phone Trips
tjd72.ram (audio/x-pn-realaudio Object)
Phone Trips
rockford5-5.ram (audio/x-pn-realaudio Object) - Secrets of the Little Blue Box
Steven Wozniak
Telephone World - Sounds & Recordings from Wawina, MN
n2p1.mp3 (audio/mpeg Object)
2184880000b.mp3 (audio/mpeg Object)
The History of Phone Phreaking
The History of Phone Phreaking Blog
T E X T F I L E S - Phone Phreaking
The Real Captain Crunch
History of Hacking See Steve Wozniak, John Draper and Kevin Mitnick interviewed in a documentary - The Real Captain Crunch
John Draper - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Joybubbles - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
File:JohnDraprBNK.JPG - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Saving Captain Crunch –
Joybubbles - YouTube
One RingyDingy - YouTube
Captain Crunch & Frankie Mouse (Software Piracy in 1985) - YouTube
Joybubbles (1/3) - YouTube
The Secret History of Hacking (Complete) - YouTube
discovery channel history of hacking see steve wozniak, john draper and kevin mitnick interviewed in a documentary that reviews great landmarks of the history of hacking. know first hand the opinion of these pioneers on a subject dismissed in the past as a dark subculture. - Google Search

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