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Wozniak on his early work as a hackerAt the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak discusses how he built and sold blue boxes at University of California at Berkeley for hacking into the phone network.
-When I discovered that you could put tones into an American telephone, beep, beep, beep, beep, certain tones, you could dial calls anywhere in the world, take control of the entire AT&T phone-switching network, I was just mesmerized and amazed. And I went and researched it, and I finally designed a blue box. But of course, I wanted to be the best designer in the world. I spent so much time coming up with the absolute best tricks to make it the minimum cost, the minimum parts inside. And one of the types of circuits that I came up to very much favor and use, and I had used them before in some computer designs, was a type of synchronous counter chip, which I then later used in devices like video games, Pong games, Breakout but it's for Atari, and the Apple I. Video camera circuits that count the horizontal and the vertical on your television set for this Apple I computer use the exact same technology that's in the blue box to generate different tones. -And you made some money with blue boxes or is that--? -Yes, we made some money. I designed it. Steve Jobs came up with selling it, and we actually sold them. What an exciting story to sell something like that and not have gotten arrested for it. -How many did you sell and where, what were the circumstances? -Might have sold as many as 50, 70, I don't know. -Yeah. -150 [unk]. It was at Berkeley. I was a college student. We would knock in on doors in the dorms and I'd say, "Well, you know if Joel Mathis is here?" And they'd say, "I'm not Joel Mathis." "Oh, you're not the Blue Boxes?" And you'd notice if they're cool or not. -Uh huh. -And some would say, "Oh, I've heard about those things." We said, "[unk] calls." "Oh, I've heard about those." You know, if they're gonna be cool and then you say, you pull one out and, "Oh wow! Is that one?" "Yeah. You want me to come back? I'll give you a demo tonight. Bring all your friends that know somebody in a foreign country." This is what we do. We would show up with a tape recorder, a real tape recorder I believe, and amplify, hook it up to the telephone so it amplifies so everybody could hear it like a speaker phone. There were no speaker phones in those days. -Uh huh. -It was illegal to own, use, or purchase your own telephones then. -Uh huh. Uh huh. -And I record every single one I ever did. Every demo I ever did calling all these other countries was recorded. Somebody kept the tape. We never got them. -So you would-- -I would sell the blue box every time. -So, how did this work? That would go inside the phone receiver? -This-- this-- this is actually an earphone out of the telephone of those days. -Uh huh. -And it plays the beep, beep, beep, and your just hold that up to a telephone, right up to the mouthpiece of a telephone, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, and it plays it just like if you played touch tones off of your, you know, an iPhone or any other small product into phone, you can dial his number. -Right.