The latest news around the net is the iPhone hack that allows you to take the sim-locked iPhone off of AT&T and use it freely on any GSM network – making the must-have device more accessible. This is a boon to people (like us) abroad who love the iPhone but don’t want to pay AT&T’s exorbitant roaming
extortion fees. Apple hasn’t taken an official stance on this issue perhaps because of a little bit of history. Maybe you’ve seen the picture to the right on Steve Wozniak’s official website:
Yep. That is Steve Jobs on the left, but the most startling thing in this picture (besides Woz’s ‘do) is that young Jobs is playing with a piece of contralband called the “Blue Box.” What is a Blue Box? From Wikipedia:
An early phreaking tool, the blue box is an electronic device that simulates a telephone operator‘s dialing console. It functions by replicating the tones used to switch long-distance calls and using them to route the user’s own call, bypassing the normal switching mechanism. The most typical use of a blue box was to place free telephone calls – inversely, the Black Box enabled one to receive calls which were free to the caller. The blue box no longer works in most western nations, as modern switching systems are now digital and no longer use the in-band signaling which the blue box emulates. Instead, signaling occurs on an out-of-band channel which cannot be accessed from the line the caller is using (called Common Channel Interoffice Signaling (CCIS))….
Some of the more famous pranksters were Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, founders of Apple Computer. On one occasion Wozniak dialed Vatican City and identified himself as Henry Kissinger (imitating Kissinger’s German accent) and asked to speak to the Pope (who was sleeping at the time).1].
We love the Steves, but it is well documented that the Apple founders got their start by hacking AT&T (from 1971-1975 AT&T was still a monopoly – just like it will be in 2010).
Therefore, it is going to be extremely difficult for Apple to take the moral high ground on the current controversy surrounding the young entrepreneurs who are hacking the iPhone. AT&T has already started hitting back at the companies that offer to untether the iPhone from the wannabe monopoly.
Hey AT&T, why not put those attorney fees into better service for your customers and lower prices for your roamers? That would be a better way of keeping customers, in our opinion.
Update: It turns out that the duo not only built the illegal boxes but assembled them and SOLD them on Cal Berkley’s campus for around $150. This profit was some of the money that was used to start Apple!!
In 1971 Steve ‘Woz’ Wozniak designed a device called the ‘Blue Box’. It allowed — of course illegal — phone calls free of charge by faking the signals used by the phone companies. His friend Steve Jobs instantly realized that there must be a huge market for something that useful. He bought the parts for $40, Woz built the boxes and Jobs sold them to his fellow students at the University of California in Berkeley for $150. To demonstrate the ‘product’ to some students, Woz once posed as Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and called the Vatican. Allegedly he played his role so well that they told him the pope was sleeping but if he requested they would awake him. Woz got nervous and hung up.
The Wozniak/Jobs blue boxes were perfected and the business partnership between Jobs and Wozniak was born with Jobs working with Wozniak to sell the blue-boxes. They had some success and decided to begin working on a personal computer. Jobs sold his Volkswagen, Wozniak sold his HP scientific calculator, together raising $1,300 to fund their startup – the rest is history.
Halliday, David. 1983. “Steve Paul Jobs”. Current Biography 5 (February): 204-207.