Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

August 25, 2007

Phone Phreaking Lives!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 10:41 am

The timing was almost too good to be true. Shortly after the death of Joe Engressia, the blind electronics genius who pioneered phone hacking as a teenager (see post below) the news comes out today that a 17 year old New Jersey kid, George Hotz, has found a way to hack into the iPhone and “unlock” the AT&*T monopoly on cellular network providers.

It’s almost–dare I say it?–karma coming full circle. Back when Joe Engressia invented phone freaking, AT&T held a virtual monopoly on long distance lines, but Joe found a way to hack into them so that fellow proto tech-no-geek kids, many of them blind too, could create an auditory Web of their own.

Then Jobs and and Wozniak were inspired by my article on Joe and his fellow phreaks to begin the partnership that became Apple. Before long AT&T’s monopoly was broken up, and after a long time resurfaced in Apple’s iPhone contract, only to be outhacked by another teenager.

It’s funny almost all the stories about the death of Joe Engressia (aka “Joybubbles”) made it seem like phone phreaking was something out of the past, important as the origin of computer hacking and Apple but with little relevance to the present.

Suddenly phone phreaking seems like the future again. Nobody likes a monopoly.


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