Saturday, 5 November 2016

Hold the Phone, Hacking's How Old?: A Recommendation of Secrets of the Little Blue Box, by Ron Rosenbaum

Sorry! Still busy, so I’ll just leave this quick recommendation.

You may read The Secrets of the Little Blue Box because ‘it inspired Steve Jobs’, but trust me, it's more than its legacy. 

Writing in the 70s, Ron Rosenbaum interviews a group of proto-hackers, whose game is not personal computers, but telephones. You know those high-frequency tones you heard on landlines? Those weren’t just decoration; that was the phone instructing the operating computer. A tone of such-and-such a frequency meant ‘1’, of this-and-that frequency ‘2’, and so on. Some clever clogs realised that if the system responded to these frequencies, then surely it shouldn't matter what the frequencies came from. A whistle, maybe. A programmed blue box.

What follows is an underground society of blind proto-computer whizzes, code names like ‘Captain Crunch’, free phone calls and phone-tapping, and ‘phone phreaks’ sticking it to the Man, AKA the phone company.

At only fifty or so pages, it’s a worthwhile diversion. If you want to learn about the surprisingly old origins of hacking, check it out.

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