The History of Hacking and Phreaking


Okay boys and girls, children of all ages…Here’s a revolutionary idear….The announcements foist!


The file we released on smashing up cop cars and getting away, ya know? Well, don’t try it unless you got half a ton of cocaine in the back seat, and a billion bucks on the dash! The cops are wise, and are liable to open fire on you once you start pulling backwards, so, don’t attempt it unless you have no other options. Another thing – now they’re air bags are quicker-draining, so they can start the chase almost as soon as you are off.

-> And Now, On With The Show! <- Okay, folks…First of all, I wrote this because, well, a lot of you fellow hacker/phreakers out there do all yer stuff, but don’t know your roots. Hacking and phreaking have been around for over 20 years now. So, without further adue, I present, the History Of Hacking, and Phreaking! -=- The History Of Hacking & Phreaking -=- Believe it or not, but hacking and phreaking have been around since the ’60s. Yep. Hacking is a legacy! Phreaking came around some time about 10 years later. -The 60’s Hacker- These were back in the days when a teenager couldn’t even buy a computer (because of price), much less fit it in his house. The ‘hackers’ were the people the sysop’s of lamer PD boards would have you believe – people who spent lots of time with their computer (hacking away at the keyboard).
The true hackers came about when Massachusetts Institute of Technology employed some nerds to do some artificial intelligence and computer work for them. These guys actually created the models for the terminal your working on right now. They were the true and original programmers and engineers.

Anyhow, these guys were working on a project called MAC (Multiple-Access Computer, Machine-Aided Cognition, or Man Against Computers…Take yer pick). All goes well as these guys write some basic programs, build operation systems, and play 4 color chess games, until the MAC programmers go public with a computer time sharing program. The first BBS, and it even had over 100 nodes!

Of course, only other guys with main frames could access this thing (i.e. – the government, other big schools, and big companies). These sysops who worked at MIT did their best to control the badly maintained MAC system, but the hoards of users cluttered up everything.

Then, something magical happened. A man called John McCarthy, Ph.D., crashed the MAC system. Soon, others took sport in crashing this international network. Companies were able to take place in a crude form of industrial espionage on the MAC buy ‘eavesdropping’ on rival’s E-Mail, and those cheap cardboard punch cards (the first computer disks) were always being corrupted by batch-file viruses. Hacking is born.

However, crashing the system and all other ‘evil’ activities were encouraged. From them, sysops learned from mistakes, and the hackers took place in the hackers’ obsession – the desire to learn as much as possible about a system.

-The 70’s Hacker/Phreaker-

The 70’s were a magical decade, and a flying leap for phone fraud. The first half of the 70’s was like the 60’s in respect to hacking. In the second half, hacking escalated into 80’s hacking (see below).

Besides hacking, though, the 70’s produced the phone phreaks. Phreaking was born from the non-existent womb of a blind child from Tennessee named Joe Engressia. Joe was one of the rare people born with perfect pitch. Because of that gift, Joe was able to manipulate some of the most sophisticated and widespread technology in the world. Joe enjoyed the phone system. Being a curious 8 year old, he called recorded messages all over the world, because it was free, and is was a good past time. One day, he was listening to a message and whistling. When he hit a certain tone, the message clicked off. You or I might have hung up, but curious 8 year olds don’t.

Joe fooled around with other numbers and the same pitch, and found he could switch off any recorded message. Joe called his local phone company, and wanted to know why this happened. He didn’t understand the explanation given, but he did realize that he had stumbled on to a whole new world to explore.

How was Joe able to do this? Joe had stumbled onto the multifrequency system (known as MF to phreakers world wide). The purpose of this system was to do most of the the job a human could do, but done cheaper and quicker by a machine. Joe used this system by whistling the right pitches at the right times to get free calls. Of course, he never wanted to hurt the phone company. He loved the phone company. It was merely curiosity which caused him to do this all.

Joe phreaked all the way into college (he was in college around the early 70’s). While phreaking free calls back home for some friends, he was caught. Joe’s case was a world wide publicity case (beginning first with an article in Esquire in 1971). Soon, he received calls from phreaks world wide asking advice on certain pitches. Joe Engressia had become the phounding phather of phreaks.

Several years before, in 1954, the phone company made a large mistake. They printed all the MF codes in their Technical Journal, a book which was easily obtained then, but has not been released to the public in over 15 years because of the damage phreaks could do with it. Phreaks learned the MF, and began using everything from their mouths to pipe organs to phreak calls.

Then, the most ironic thing of all aided phreakers. John Draper, an air force technician stationed over seas discovered that if a toy whistle in boxes of Cap’n Crunch had a hole covered up, it produced a pure 2600 cycle tone, the exact pitch needed for a free call anywhere (at least it used to be). Soon, Draper was calling other phreaks all over the world. Paris, Peking, London, New York and more.

Using his 2600 cycle whistle and other tools of the trade, Draper set up a phreak underground. It was a mass node ‘party-line’ in which many phreaks talked to one another at one time. In the throne was Cap’n Crunch – John Draper’s handle.

The phreakers exchanged knowledge, and soon combined their ideas to build the blue box. The blue box can reproduce any MF pitch. The whole thing came together in October, 1971, in Esquire magazine. Ron Rosenbaum exposed the phreaking world from Joe to Crunch in one article called “Secrets Of The Little Blue Box”.

Rosenbaum distorted the phreaking world greatly. According to him, Crunch had a van which was chock-full of electronics. Crunch would drive around the country side, going from pay phone to pay phone, stealing cash from the coin box for money, and placing calls to phreaker friends. Occasionally, Crunch would call his ‘mentor’, Joe, for advice. Nah. I don’t think so. Rosenbaum glorified the phreaking world, making Crunch a romantic hero.

Draper/Crunch was arrested, convicted, and did time. While in the big house, several mafia inmates tried to recruit him into a commercial blue-box front. Draper declined, and they knocked out a few of his teeth, and broke his back.

After leaving prison, Draper quit phreaking, and began programming. Last the world heard, he was head of a programming division of Apple.

-The 80’s Hacker-

During the 1980’s the hacker population probably went up 1000-fold. Why? For several reasons. The first being that the personal computer and clones were made available to the public at cheap prices. People could afford to buy a terminal and set up a BBS. And, where you find BBS’s, you find hackers.

The second, and probably biggest reason was the movie WarGames. WarGames displayed hacking as a glamourous profession. It made hacking sound easy. I once heard that the estimate of hackers in the US increased by 600% after WarGames. Modem users also increased, but only by a mere 1200%. This made hacking easy, though, because it was also estimated that one third of “WarGames Generation Hackers” had the password ‘Joshua’. If you have seen the movie, you know that that name had some significance. Many hackers didn’t like WarGames, though. They thought it made hacking sound like a pansy thing to do. To non-hackers, though, WarGames was great.

The third reason is because of the mass publicity surround WarGames and hacking. If we had a controlled media, probably the only hackers in the USA would be spies and corporate computer techs. The media increased the hacker population by a lot, also.

-The Hacker of The 90’s and Beyond-

Hacking of the 90’s have basically been crashers of BBS’s and company boards. There have been a few virus-smiths around. Piracy is always around. Who knows what the future brings in the world of hacking, phreaking, and anarchy?