learning about joybubbles

one of the great things about the internet is that by goofing around you can stumble across the most interesting things.

and yesterday, via boing boing, during my lunch hour i learned about joybubbles.

joybubbles was the adopted name of joe engrassia, a blind man who was one of the first phone phreakers. phone phreakers predate computer hackers — they specialized in manipulating the phone system for fun and [sometimes] profit, but mostly for fun.

for instance, did you know that years ago, captain crunch cereal gave away a whistle as a prize in a box of cereal, and the sound produced by the whistle could be used to get free long distance calls? that’s just the beginning of a long, fascinating history of phone phreaking that was recounted in a seminal article in the october 1971 issue of esquire. among the readers of the article were two california guys named jobs and wozniak, who were then inspired to start tinkering in the garage. and we all know how that ended up.

the author, ron rosenbaum, took me on a journey into an underground that i didn’t know existed, and now i can’t get enough of reading about it. set aside an hour and read this. it fulfills my first rule of good writing: take a subject that no one knows about, and could care less about, and make it so engrossing that you can’t stop thinking about it.