Author Topic: "Exploding the Phone", by Phil Lapsley  (Read 93627 times)

Offline Phonesrfun

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"Exploding the Phone", by Phil Lapsley
« on: May 21, 2013, 01:28:24 PM »
Ok, how do I not sound like I am being paid to promote the book.  I am not, by the way.

Greg a.k.a. "Brinybay" on this forum recommended it to me, and I believe there have been some other discussions of this elsewhere in the forum.  Myself, I was a kid growing up in the 1960's and I was in high school between 1965 and 1969, and I studied radio & electronics classes and I had a ham radio licence.  I was kind of a nerd.

My neighbor and I had a phone line between our houses and we used to each call directory assistance via direct dialing the area code, followed by 555-1212.  We would each call directory assistance in two remote cities, for instance Atlanta and New York and then we would connect the two together via our tie line and sit back and listen to the two of them figure out how they got connected.  I remember on more than one occasion a directory assistance operator saying that it must be one of those black boxes.  I did not know what a black box was at the time.

I also figured out that you could hook a capacitor up to the line and while the phone was on-hook, you could hear the person calling you talking in-between rings, as long as you didn't pick up the phone, there was a free phone call.  I didn't know others had figured that out too.

In our circle of friends we found the loop circuits or pick-up lines where it seemed that half the town's teen- agers wer on the phone at the same time.

I called it playing on the phone, because that's what my parents called it.

The interesting thing about this book is that even though I did not figure out the tones and the ways to get real free long distance, it was at a time when I do remember the tones on the lines from inband signaling.

These "hackers" were high school and college aged kids trying to explore and understand  the wonderous machinery that made up the phone system.  It was, after all, pretty wonderful at that time.  These kids were not terrorists nor were they murderers.  They didn't blow things up.  The potential was there for big-time security breeches of national security, but those were due to known flaws that were rolled out with the phone system at the time, and then fully documented in the Bell System's own public publications.

Any way it is a great book because it tells of the people involved and not just the electronics side of things.

I give Phil an A+ on this book.

« Last Edit: May 21, 2013, 02:32:48 PM by Phonesrfun »
-Bill G

Offline Brinybay

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Re: "Exploding the Phone", by Phil Lapsley
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2013, 12:28:44 PM »
Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did, Bill.  Very well written, I couldn't put it down. 
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Offline HarrySmith

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Re: "Exploding the Phone", by Phil Lapsley
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2013, 06:26:10 PM »
I just ordered a copy. Used for $14.00 shipped. Can't wait to see it.
BTW, the author posted on the lists the other day about having the materials he collected during research available on his website. I believe it was exploding the phone dot com but not sure. I will have to search for that message.

LINK: http://explodingthephone.com/extras
« Last Edit: May 22, 2013, 06:28:31 PM by HarrySmith »
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Offline shersh

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Re: "Exploding the Phone", by Phil Lapsley
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2013, 09:54:29 PM »
This book sounds like a good read.  My group of friends were into phones (and CB radio) in the early to mid 70's and pulled some of the same pranks.  We also would put operators together by taking the ejectors out of a five button phone so we could press two lines at the same time and put the lines together.  Listening to their conversations was entertaining and educational.  Eventually we learned enough to impersonate an operator and get information about special test numbers, ring back numbers etc. 

We also used to call into "party lines" where everybody spoke between the busy signals.  These were numbers for radio stations and we suspect the call volume created this anomaly.  Amazing that you could meet girls with one word shouted between each busy signal.

We also had "black boxes" which would register the phone as ringing even though you had picked up the line.

One of the weirdest things was a collection of pay phone finger wheels.  We would take these from pay phones and catalog exactly where each one had come from; parks, schools, even a police station.  We had a couple hundred by the time we outgrew it.  Too bad the collection was thrown out about the same time we were.  (In our case they called it going to college.)  I'll bet it could probably fetch a pretty penny on ebay these days.

Offline Phonesrfun

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Re: "Exploding the Phone", by Phil Lapsley
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2013, 10:26:46 PM »
 I learned the hard way that unlike directory assistance operators, the REAL  operators had control over and could override calling party control (CPC).  When trying to connect two operators together, they siezed control of my parent's phone line, and I couldn't hang up.  The operator would not go away until she made me call one of my parents to the phone, and she told my mother what I had done.  How demeaning!

It didn't stop me, I just learned what not to do.  These days, you can't even find a live operator.
-Bill G

Offline DavePEI

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Re: "Exploding the Phone", by Phil Lapsley
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2013, 05:45:43 AM »
I have just ordered a copy of Phil's book. Thanks, Bill for posting the review here.

Ahh, the 70s were fun! I remember extra phones - (my parent's always worried the telephone police would bust down the door), shouting over the Beep Beep line, making payphone calls with a pin through the handset cord, and dialing by the switch-hook on my 211 mounted beside my bed. I cursed when they started replacing cords on Payphones with armored ones!

Hard to believe I was a pretty good boy :-) I never did any black or blue boxing, but was always fascinated by the idea. I am sure the book will remind me of much more! Can't wait for it to come!

Dave
« Last Edit: May 23, 2013, 05:47:29 AM by DavePEI »
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Offline Phonesrfun

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Re: "Exploding the Phone", by Phil Lapsley
« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2013, 05:26:23 PM »
Hook-switch dialing was always a fun thing to demonstrate to friends.  They were amazed, then yawned.

 :-\
-Bill G

Offline Mr. Bones

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Re: "Exploding the Phone", by Phil Lapsley
« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2013, 09:55:30 PM »
Man, oh man!

     From everything I have read upon this subject, you guys were pretty wild! :o I was always a techno-nerd, but it seemed simple enough to just put a dime in the slot, for me.

     Definitely better than the multiple arse-beatings alternative that would have ensued, had I been caught by my folks, doing such things.

     Where I grew up, one operator per shift, knew me from birth first middle last names, busted me several times when pre-kindergarten young, playing games with the phone. Right scalded me arse, she did, by FML name.

     Not much opportunity to explore phone hacks, etc. Like, ZERO. I was likely on the SWBT watchlist from before preschool. Most likely, still am. ;)

Best regards!
Sláinte!
   Mr. Bones
      Rubricollis Ferus

Offline DavePEI

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Re: "Exploding the Phone", by Phil Lapsley
« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2013, 03:11:24 PM »
I was pleased to see my copy of "Exploding the Phone" in the mail this morning. I can't wait to sit down to read it!

Dave
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Offline Phonesrfun

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Re: "Exploding the Phone", by Phil Lapsley
« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2013, 06:20:41 PM »
I had a hard time putting it down once I got started.  That lead to some additional Google searches and he even has a bunch of supplemental stuff on his web site explodingthephone.com.

It's just too dang bad that in-band signalling is no more!

Maybe some pholks with an Asterisk boxes can create a bunch of "tandems" to stack using 2,600 Hz and MF.   Wouldn't that be fun!
-Bill G

Offline DavePEI

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Re: "Exploding the Phone", by Phil Lapsley
« Reply #10 on: May 30, 2013, 07:06:40 PM »
Now there. I knew the book would remind me of other antics over the phone.

By page 35, I had been reminded of the mis-use of person to person calls. Back when I used to travel back and forth to Toronto from Brockville, and then when I used to travel to the Island, I used to call home to my parent's place person-to person asking for "Sonny Hunter" to let them know that I had arrived at my destination. Of course, "Sonny" was never there, so they were free calls, but my parents rested easy knowing I had gotten to my destination safely.

Once again, they were sure the phone police were going to bust through the door and put them in jail because of what I had done!

Now, what else will I be reminded of as I read on! I love this book!

Dave
« Last Edit: May 30, 2013, 08:00:41 PM by DavePEI »
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Offline Phonesrfun

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Re: "Exploding the Phone", by Phil Lapsley
« Reply #11 on: May 30, 2013, 07:23:27 PM »
I am sure you will find more.  I did. 

When it came to that age-old thing of calling home person-to-person, I always figured that since everyone I knew did it, the phone company must have built into their overall pricing for the fact that there was a certain amount of facility usage that went un-billed for person-to-person calls that were ultimately not "completed"
-Bill G

Offline Brinybay

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Re: "Exploding the Phone", by Phil Lapsley
« Reply #12 on: May 31, 2013, 10:43:29 PM »
I feel kind of deprived.  In my area, the northern burbs of Seattle in the 60s, making a free LD call was too easy.  When you placed a LD call, an operator came on the line and asked for the billing number.  I just picked one out of the phone book at random.
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Offline CanadianGuy

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Re: "Exploding the Phone", by Phil Lapsley
« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2016, 03:03:55 PM »
Reviving an old thread to see if anyone downloaded the audiobook? It's narrated by one of the actual phone phreaks, but I don't think it's mentioned in the book, which is unabridged by the way. His real name is Johann North. I've been listening to his "phone trip" tapes that he's been editing and posting on Soundcloud.

What's even weirder to me is that he mentions "Evan Doorbell" in the book, which is his nickname. I'm amazed at how much he recorded over the years, and how articulate he is in narrating his own tapes! It's like he's a professional radio DJ, with an awesome voice.

Anyway, I highly recommend the audiobook. Oh, and I asked Phil via Twitter how he got him to narrate it, and he said Johann approached him!