I recently posted about a searchable archive of about 800 historical phone phreaking documents that I used as research material for Exploding The Phone. Even if you're really into this stuff, that's a lot of documents and it's hard to know where to begin. So as a new feature for this blog I thought I'd start highlighting a new document every week.
This week's gem is the June 1972 Ramparts magazine article, "Regulating The Phone Company In Your Home" written by phone phreak Ray Oklahoma (a pseudonym).
Oklahoma's article was significant for a couple of reasons. First, because it explained how to construct a "black box" -- basically, a device that would allow people to call you without their being charged for the call -- in way that made it so simple that anyone could do it. (Check out the beautiful and friendly illustration below, for example. You can click on it to get a slightly larger version.)
The second reason the article was significant was that Pacific Telephone and AT&T forced Ramparts to recall some 90,000 copies of the issue. As Ramparts editors wrote later, "Within a week American Telephone and Telegraph had achieved what the CIA, Pentagon, FBI and other targets of Ramparts’ journalism over the last ten years hadn’t been able to bring about: the nationwide suppression of this magazine."
The black box article wasn't the first time Ramparts had run stories advocating telephone fraud, by the way. A few years earlier it published an article on the San Francisco Mime Troup titled "Ripping Off Ma Bell." It's sort of classic for its over-the-top tone, to say nothing of its 1970-inspired color choices. :-)
You can see the entire black box article here. If you're still not satisfied, here are some links to additional Ramparts-related documents in the archives:
- "How The Phone Company Interrupted Our Service", Ramparts' version of what happened when AT&T got wind of the article
- Los Angeles Times and New York Times coverage of the dust-up
You can also view the complete archive of articles related to Ramparts here.