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TUCoPS :: Phreaking General Information :: sec_bb_c.txt

Captain Crunch comments about the "Little Secrets of the Blue Box" article

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             Cap'n Crunch comments on the Esquire Article    

For a very long time, I've had to answer many questions about some of the
claims made in the Esquire article on some of the things I did, so here,
I've included my comments on the article. I recently found a copy of the
article on the WEB, and have read it again, so here are some of my
comments... I hope this answers once and for all the myth behind some of
the claims in the article.

"Calling around the world several times, ringing the pay phone next to
you" - Well, this was true. It worked like this... In the UK, we were able
to switch a call through the UK, and from there, go to Australia (Using a
different set of tones), then back to SF and the pay phone. This worked,
because in the UK, they used 2280 Hz signaling which didn't interfere with
the USA signaling frequency of 2600 Hz. The Australian signaling frequency
was 600 Hz followed by 770Hz I believe. It's been such a long time ago,
but I'm sure someone will come forth and set me straight. As to calling
myself clockwise then counter clockwise, that was also true to a point.

By then, I was just learning the intricacies of Tandem stacking using
guard-banding. Very new people other than me were successful at this.
First, let me explain "Guard Banding". It becomes necessary for the phone
company to install circuitry that prevented disconnection's when a high
pitch voice has 2600 Hz component in their voice, otherwise, old Auntie
would trip the call and disconnect. So, this circuitry was designed so
that if there were OTHER frequency components OTHER than 2600 on the
line, it wouldn't trip the call.

It turns out that if you selected a "Guard" frequency that is slightly
higher than the upper frequency limit (Around 3200 Hz was optimal), this
means that on the first leg of the connection, one had to boost the 3200
component in such a way that when they arrived at the other end, BOTH
would have identical levels and the call wouldn't trip off. On the 2nd
leg, the 3200 component would be attenuated BELOW the guard threshold,
and the line would trip off, not all the way back to the first trunk, but
land you on the 2nd trunk. Instead of getting the "Ker-cheep" sound, you
would hear "Ker-cheep-cheep", two distinct beeps. One coming from the
first, and the other coming from the 2nd. With this new concept, it was
possible to hop-scotch and zigzag just about anywhere up to about 8 or 10
hops. With this, one would certainly cause massive headaches for anyone
wanting to "trace" a call.

When the Esquire article came out, Guard banding hadn't been "Invented"
yet, but the article mentoned zig zagging. In THAT case, tandem hopping
was a little different. Back then, the long distance circuits used a
number-1 crossbar switch for long distance switching, instead of the more
common 4A switches. Fresno and Bakersfield had TTC codes of 042 and 044
respectively. For instance, these codes distinguished the cities in the
same area code. For instance, to reach a Fresno operator, one had to dial
kp 209-042-121-st. The 042 was a "Routing code" which routes the call to
Fresno. Stockton which had a 4a was a main switching center for the 209
area code.

For testing purposes, it was possible to do kp-042-st (from a 209 area
code trunk). This caused a rather interesting thing to happen. The
number-1 crossbar switch would just drop you right onto a Fresno trunkuld
then do kp-044-042-st. This would route first to Bakersfield (044) then
back to Fresno (042). Then by repeating it (kp-044-042-st) over and over,
resulted in hopping back and forth. Eventually, this would result in
either the blue box tones being so weak that you couldn't go any further,
or the trunk lines would all be busied out. Well, at that time, about 30%
of the AT&T system was using the number-1 crossbar switchs. All one had to
do was to go out and find them. I did, and found just about all of them in
the US and mapped them. Through this, one could zig-zag as mentioned in
the article. On those round the world demonstrations, the delay times
weren't 20 seconds. It was more like about 3 seconds, and with an
amplified line tie, it was possible to actually create an "Echo chamber",
A mighty long one at that :-)

A lot of the cities and names used in the Esquire article was false to
protect the people involved.

The description of the procedures outlined in the aricle were accurate,
but some of the tones given in the article were FALSE. This, of course was
to protect the phone company, but SOME students would make the connection
and find a source for the actual blue box frequencies which were published
in a Bell System technical journal and was available in any University
library, as Woz soon discovered after he read the article. It's not known
how many people actually figured out how to Blue Box from the article, but
Woz was the first one I encountered.

The overseas access code KP-182-ST was accurate. That was the code for the
UK. KP-183-ST was Europe, and eventually KP-186-ST was for Japan and the
Pacific. Eventually, that was phased out, and a more standard overseas
access was employed, where one would dial KP-011-044-ST would translate to
KP-182-ST. These were the trunk codes for overseas calls. Because the
tandem registers only had the capability of storing 11 digits, one had to
first call through a device called a "Sender" The KP-182-ST was the code
for the overseas sender. After dialing that, one would hear a tone, not
unlike a dial tone, then upon hearing that tone, would dial
KP-04412220666-ST for "Dial a Disc" which would pipe the latest London pop
tune hit through the phone. Then, London code was (01). Dropping the "0",
would be the "1"for London.

 0 - Send call through Satellite or
 1 - Send call through Cable
44 - Country code for UK
 1 - code for London (I think it's 071 now)
222-0666 London's Dial-a-disc number

Now, here's the real ironic thing...Back in the early 60's when the ATT
long lines had just developed "Multi-Frequency", there were ads placed on
TV, which explained this. REAL tones were actually given out in their ads.
"Now we can switch calls 10 times faster to speed your call to Granny by
using pairs of tones" the ads would hype. Tsk Tsk - Little did they
know... I mean, it was quite clever for ATT to use this method of
signaling. It meant that it was possible to use only ONE trunk for BOTH
signaling and TALKING. My My, they saved heaps of $$$ doing it this way,

It was possible to record the tones on a good tape recorder and play them
back. Those old Panasonic mono portable cassette recorders worked best.
Most people would use simple organs torecord the tones for their favorite
numbers. So blue boxes weren't really necessary. Countless times, I was
asked by my blind colleges to hook up their recorders to my Blue box.

The description and theory behind the principles of the Bluebox was very
well explained in the Esquire article.

The only way one would get caught using blue boxes was to dial an
excessive amount of 800 numbers to places where the duration of the calls
are quite short. For instance, a call to the US Army Recruiters for 4
hours might be noticed.

Now to clear up another myth. 800 numbers DID get registered on the AMA
tape (Automatic Message Accounting). These tapes are fed into big
mainframes to collate peoples phone bills. NORMALLY, 800 numbers won't
get transferred to a person's phone bill. It took some one to program
their computers to "Look" for unreasonable length calls to 800 numbers,
but this practice didn't happen until AFTER the esquire article. People
got caught by dialing (then) toll free information numbers, and dialing
off those. Back then, ALL information calls (909-555-1212) would NOT
register an "Off hook" signal. But if you used a blue box from them, when
your party answered, you would get that DREADED off hook signal and that
would CERTAINLY cause attention.  That's how "Gilbertson" mentioned in the
Esquire article, got caught.

The mention of a conference number in Canada was true. That was the (in)
famous 2111 conference in Vancouver. I explain it in more detail in my

The quote: "Captain Crunch is one of the older phone phreaks," Gilbertson
tells me. "He's an engineer who once got in a little trouble for fooling
around with the phone, but he can't stop"

THAT'S NOT TRUE!! Back then I had NEVER gotten into any kind of trouble.
The trouble started BECAUSE of the esquire article, which spawned massive
grand jury investigations in MANY cities all over the USA as a result of
that article.

The Article quoted...."Well, the guy drives across country in a Volkswagen
van with an entire switchboard and a computerized super-sophisticated
M-F-er in the back. He'll pull up to a phone booth on a lonely highway
somewhere, snake a cable out of his bus, hook it onto the phone and sit
for hours, days sometimes, sending calls zipping back and forth across the
country, all over the world...."

NOT TRUE... But it certainly sold a lot of copies of Esquire... I did have
an "Automatic Box" as it was called, because the tones were pulsed out at
exactly the same specification as the automatic senders, making detection
harder to notice. AS far as having an entire switchboard in my Van, that's
a bit far-fetched. I did drive a VW Van. Had a separate bank of about 4
car batteries in the back which operated a 110 volt inverter for my radio
equipment. Which was a 2 meter FM Ham Transceiver and an FM Broadcast
transmitter, mixer console, and turntables.

As far as snaking a cable out the van, THAT'S not true, but I did pull up
to those "Phone from car" type pay phones, which in my area were too few
to be used very frequently. I DID goon a lot of "Phone trips" where we
would go out to the most remote places to see if it was possible to Blue
box from them. Often I woul find special codes that permitted me to access
long distance numbers. I remember going to "Grasshopper Junction, Az"
where all they had was those old Crank phones, and I was able to "Twiddle"
a call from one of them. Reports got back to my friends back home and it
was quite a feat. "Hi Denny, Guess where I'm calling from?" I would say..
then told him I was using an old crank phone. I strived to find the
strangest places to call from... The Space Needle in Seattle, a train from
Philadelphia to New York, and just about every landmark in the USA.

After repeated urging, I did demonstrate to Ron Rosenbaum the art of
tandem stacking by calling his hotel phone and letting him hear the call
"taken down" as I hung up. This produced a cacophony of chirps as the
connection was torn down. It was quite a spooky sound.

By the way, I DID call the US Embassy in Moscow. Ron was quite impressed
with that.... Had to go through Canada of course, because the USA wasn't
on speaking terms with the USSR. I just did KP-187-ST to get the Montreal
sender, then KP-07-095-252-0011-ST - I remember that number well....

07 - Countrycode for USSR
095 - city code for Moscow
252-0011 - US Embassy's phone number in Moscow

The super computer Blue Box was quite amazing back in its time. The
esquire article explained it quite well... It used MIL-SPEC components
(Which came in handy when I was up in BC in the winter time). If I were to
tabulate how much money I saved using it, I would guess about $10, because
I used it to dial codes not accessible from subscribers phones.

Although I had the ability to "tap" into conversations, using the "Verify"
lines, it was rather risky and for me, somewhat unethical, and I only did
it WITH PERMISSION of the two parties talking, for instance when the 2111
conference was being torn down, I "Jumped" on Fred's line via the Verify
trunks to the amazement of both parties. The quote where the article
mentioned me tapping into my girl friends line as true SOMEWHAT but was
over sensationalized.

The MF Boogie Blues was a song composed by an organ, a bunch of phone
freaks and was quite funny. It was played on the 2111 conferences as well
as other conferences.

The Esquire mentioned Guard banding, but it mentioned using 1700 plus
2600. This was the early intro. to Guard banding, but long after that,
3200 Hz was determined to work far btter.

A lot of the quotes that Ron had claimed I made were not really true. My
ears being $20,000 piece of equipment just meant that I have perfct pitch
and can hear a tone and can determine within 1% of the actual frequency,
but MOST people with perfect pitch can do that.

A lot of my conversations with Ron (according to the article) made it seem
like I was bragging. But a lot of information Ron got was from my younger
blind friends who looked up to me as someone much older and more
experienced, especially my electronic experience. But when I talked to
Ron, I let him know in no uncertain terms that to publish this would cause
MAJOR PROBLEMS, not for just me, but for the phone company and all parties
concerned, and did everything in my power to convince him NOT to publish
this information, even if he mislead readers on the actual frequencies and
names involved, it was still to easy to get the correct ones, not to
mention the problems for the Phone company officials and the authorities
as well. However, Ron's Greed for a killer article and the money and fame
he got from it reigned, and (sigh!) it was published. After that, phone
hacking was never the same again.

I think that "Gilberson" (The dude that got caught for stupidly using
"long distance Information") and selling the boxes to the Mafia definitely
had MONEY on his mind, because HE got caught, he thought that he should
"BLOW THE LID" and screw it up for everyone. I hate to admit, he was very

This quote "Many phone phreaks pick up spending money by MF-ing calls from
relatives to Vietnam G.I.'s, charging $5 for a whole hour of trans-Pacific
conversation." is FALSE... In almost ALL the phone freaks I've ever known
(With the exception of Steve Wozniak) NONE have had ANY financial
incentive to use their skills to make money. Woz sold a number of Blue
boxes to some pretty unscrupulous dudes which helped him through college
and partially payed for the Apple I boards that helped start Apple
Computer. He put in a note "He's got the whole world in his hands" inside
each one. With all the fame I've accumulated, I've never accumulated one
red cent for all the hassles I've endured in all of this 25 year fiasco.
Pretty much ALL book offers have fizzled, but other people have gotten
filthy rich off my story (Sneakers, the movie was based somewhat on my
story), where in the movie, the dude that went to jail held phone freak
classes for the prisoners, and other things related to the computer
accesses in the 60's. I'll no doubt cover THAT in some future entry in my
WEB pages. I'm only scrtching the surface right now, using just a few
excerps from my memoirs. Then I appeared on CBS's "This Morning" TV
program back in 1992 during the release of "Sneakers", I said "My story is
a lot more complex and interesting".

The legendary 2111 conference was explained very well in the esquire
article. We found NO LIMIT to the number of people who could get on that
thing. One thing the Esquire article didn't mention, was that the BC Phone
company actually wired it u to it's OWN TTC code. kp-604-059-2111-stuld
access SOME of the lines for many many years to come (Probably 7 - 8 years
longer) before the plug was pulled for good, sometime in 1980. According
to reports, only 20% of the phone system still used in-band signalling. By
1982 only 5% and now today, very few circuits will respond to in-band
tones, and these are watched very carefully.

The quote: "Later that evening Gilbertson finished telling me how
delighted he was at the flood of blue boxes spreading throughout the
country, how delighted he was to know that "this time they're really
screwed." says a lot about Gilbertson's attitude on the phone system, and
Gilbertson was the person who made the initial contact with Ron to write
the article in the first place. Gilbertson WENT DOWN, and wanted to take
the phone company with him. I talked with him briefly (through a blind
phone freaks "Line tie") this man was BITTER...

Anyway, after that article, many many people got arrested (including me),
even long after I stopped doing the blue box experiments. Article came out
late September, 1971, I was arrested in May of 1972..

So, these are my thoughts on the article, read it yourself, it's still
very fascinating, very informative, made quite sensational, and no doubt
made SOME people a lot of money. I just wish some money would have come to
me for all the hassle this caused me.

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