Feb 20, 2012

Long Distance

In the mid-1950s, a blind seven-year-old boy named Joe Engressia Jr. made a discovery that changed his own life and many others. While idly dialing information on the family telephone, he heard a high-pitched tone in the background and started whistling along with it. Slowly, he learned to recognize all kinds of tones, pulses, clicks and beeps that the phone system used to talk to itself. And when he got good at decoding those sounds, he became the grandaddy of a whole movement of like-minded obsessives known as "phone phreaks." Phreaking-historian Phil Lapsley explains how Joe and his phreak-brothers explored the hidden arteries of Ma Bell. And Joe's friend Steven Gibb helps us understand how telephony was the key to Joe's great escape--out of the adult world and into an idyllic childhood he never had, complete with a new name.

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