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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-10-22
- Reviewer: Staff
In 1967, an enterprising young Harvard student, Jake Locke (the names in this book have been changed), stumbled upon an intriguing ad in the Harvard Crimson; curiosity piqued, Jake soon discovered, with the help of the phone company’s own materials and a few other interested people, that he could rig a “blue box” that would allow him to subvert the phone system and make free phone calls. Drawing on exclusive interviews with former “phone phreaks,” FBI agents, former Ma Bell employees, as well as on extensive research on telephone systems and declassified government documents, technology writer Lapsley smartly chronicles the adventures of many of these individuals, including two youngsters named Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, whose construction of a blue box set them on the road to developing future culture-changing technologies. For example, Lapsley tells the story of David Condon, who created a device that would mimic phone tones in order to fool the system into bypassing the operator for long-distance calls, and Ralph Barclay, whose quick study of the November 1960 issue of the Bell System Technical Journal allowed him to manipulate the phone system to his advantage to make free calls. In a perhaps too grandiose, though momentarily provocative, conclusion, Lapsley points out that the “phone phreaks taught us that there is a societal benefit to tolerating, perhaps even nurturing the crazy ones... for if Wozniak and Jobs had gone to jail for making blue boxes, we might never have had Apple.” (Feb.)