Thursday, August 16, 2007

Joybubbles, Phone Phreaker Who Inspired Woz, Passes Away

Image from Telephone Tribute

With Apple on top of the market, it can be easy to forget that Steves Jobs and Wozniak first collaborated on an illegal project, making blue boxes to place illegal long-distance phone calls — phone phreaking. One of their biggest inspirations, according to Woz’s autobiography, “iWoz,” was Joe Engressia, who legally changed his name to Joybubbles.

A student at the University of South Florida in the late 1960s, he was given the nickname “Whistler” due to his ability to place free long-distance phone calls with his whistle. He was disciplined by the University early on, but after graduating his studies in philosophy and moving to Tennessee, law enforcement raided his house; he was charged with malicious mischief and given a suspended sentence and quickly abandoned phreaking, although was able to whistle 2600 hertz throughout his life.

Joybubbles lived a tragic life, as you can read in his Wikipedia entry. Still he had a profound impact on the early days of Apple. This Esquire story, featuring Captain Crunch and Joybubbles, changed consumer electronics history by inspiring the Steves. Rest in peace.

Via (Boingboing)

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