The Village Voice web site has been posting blast-from-the-past articles from their archives. This week was a piece by Ron Rosenbaum from September 13, 1973 titled "Phone Phreak Convention" covering the second annual phone phreak convention at the Hotel Diplomat in New York City. An excerpt:
"Al Bell," the 20-year-old whiz kid who organized both conventions and who publishes Youth International Party Line, the fact-filled phone phreak newsletter, brought a carton full of black Lone Ranger masks to this year's gathering and handed them out at the door. Most of the serious -- i.e., criminally active -- phone freaks put the masks on. [...] (The only participants not wearing masks, it seemed, were a group of four blind phone phreaks and their two seeing eye dogs.)
[...] Last year's convention barely filled the seedy basement meeting room of the Diplomat. This year's gathering was big enough to crowd the entire seedy "Grand Ballroom" on the third floor.
The phone phreak movement seemed to be moving up from the underground on several other fronts. An NBC network camera crew was present to film the highlights of the five-hour gathering. There were screenings of instructional videotapes illustrating every form of cheating the phone company from number 14 brass washers (they are said to work like quarters) to sophisticated Blue Boxes.
But more important than that, the tide seems to have turned in the chronic technological warfare between phone phreak inventiveness and phone company counter-measures. Just when the phone company security men seemed to have the Blue Box operators on the run, certain advanced phone phreaks perfected an entirely new weapon: The Red Box. Last Saturday's Second Annual Phone Phreak Convention will be remembered as the one in which the Red Box made its official debut.