Articles Hacking & Geeky

Apple’s co-founder behind notorious hacking during his teen age

Steve Wozniak hit the eureka moment when he read an article which lay on his mother’s kitchen table. It was about a bunch of people known as the “phone phreaks” (hackers of that time) outsmarting the phone companies and setting up networks nobody ever imagined. Despite the characters sounded fictitious, the idea they projected, on the whole, amazed Steve. The article talked about the “Blue Box” idea, and how few frequencies can be used to make free telephone calls around the world! Though the idea was crazy, it certainly ringed a bell to the co-founder of Apple Inc. the instant.

The twenty-year-old Wozniak instantly called his friend Steve Jobs to tell about it. The excited duo then raided into the library at the Stanford Linear Acceleration Center  (SLAC), to look up for a phone manual that listed tone frequencies. They found a new adrenaline gush driving in as they discovered that the article is for real. That very day they both purchased analog tone generator kits from the local store and managed to record pairs of tones on a cassette tape, enough to make a “Blue Box call” and hack the entire telephone network!

Though the analog kit was good enough, it was practically imprecise. Woz’s expertise in electronic digital circuits helped (which later helped to build the revolutionary Apple I and Apple II computers) led him to design a clever circuit for making prank calls. Under an alias, Woz and Jobs along with another high school friend, Draper, joined the ranks of the “phone phreaks” and making free calls everywhere.

The more business savvy among the duo – Jobs, smelled an opportunity behind this idea. He began to sell the blue boxes for 170$  which came with a unique warranty: a small piece of paper tucked inside which bore the words, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” Sales went on and eventually, this illegal business went on its peak. Woz spent hours exploring the network, using his Blue box to figure how the telephone system worked.

Later Woz realized, the blue box had great potential for practical jokes! For instance, he tried calling the Pope office in the Vatican and played his pranks with a heavy accent. Following his suit, others withhold of the Blue box started their action. One tried to reach the Mexican President at 2 o’ clock in the morning, another bunch of phreaks redirected the calls coming into the city of Santa Barbara and told: “there has been a nuclear explosion” which made it to the headlines of the news as a hoax. More horrible pranks were played as when these “phone phreaks” jammed the telephone lines and routing the incoming calls elsewhere and created a chaos.

The Ultimate prank was when a popular TV host accidentally joked that there had been a shortage of toilet paper across the US, the “phreaks” phone tapped into the “CIA crisis number”, summoned the president (through the code word ‘Olympus’) to join the call, and blurted out “The Country was out of toilet paper!”