Esquire phone phreaking article from 1971 SEP 02 2010
From the October 1971 issue of Esquire, Secrets of the Little Blue Box, an early mainstream piece on phone phreaking.
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."