Mourly Vold had discovered how to use his telephone as a scientific instrument, a sharp-tipped probe to investigate the organization of the telephone networks. Once he had directed himself out of the local exchange, he could send himself wherever he wanted to go by speaking to the operators in their own language. He made contact with the traffic service engineers, the route managers, the local office technicians [...] They answered his questions and explained things to him. [...] With benefit of these tutorials, the organization of the telephone system grew clearer in his mind's eye. They had constructed it with an open path, a paved highway even, for an invader. He saw himself standing on this highway with nothing in his way. He could race up and down as much as he liked, and he could bring his friends in to enjoy the freedom, too. Why had they taken so few precautions against him? They had assumed that no one would ever be interested.
-- from Loving Little Egypt by Thomas McMahon, 1987
Loving Little Egypt is the second novel by the late Thomas McMahon, a Professor of Applied Mechanics and biology at Harvard University. It tells the story of Mourly Vold, aka "Little Egypt," a blind phone phreak who wants only to explore the telephone network and get the phone company to fix what's broken about it. In the process he and his pals discover adventure, love, betrayal, and revenge. Loving Little Egypt is fantasy: although McMahon says up front that it was inspired by the 1971 Esquire article, the phreaks have been transplanted to the 1920s, where Mourly -- who seems to be a blend of real-life phone phreaks Joybubbles and John Draper -- gets to play with fanciful network equipment ("Z trunks") and pal around with the likes of Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Nikolai Tesla. It gets the vibe right, though, and (presciently for 1987) nails issues that still plague us today, such as how to deal with security vulnerabilities:
"Why have you been trying so hard to get our attention? What's your message?" asked Bertram Fairchild, the President of the phone company.
"I came here to show you that your new in-band signaling system equipment can be manipulated by anybody who can click his tongue," Mourly Vold told him. "I'm willing to help you fix it, but it will be a big job ... It's badly built."
"I don't agree it's badly built," Fairchild said.
"Only to you," Fairchild said. "If you really feel as protective towards it as you say you do, you could agree to be discreet with that information."
"I could," Mourly Vold said, "but that would do no good at all. The cat is out of the bag. What I found, another person could. You don't need to fix me. You need to fix the networks. I don't know what could be plainer than that."
(My emphasis, by the way; I think that is one of the clearest statements about technology, security, and human nature I've seen.)
It's a good read -- better than I expected, to be honest -- and surprisingly touching in places. Worth checking out.P.S., Other than Tandem Rush (which I've not read), Loving Little Egypt is the only phone-phreak themed novel I'm aware of. Please let me know if you know of others.