Just a few days ago at DEFCON, in the middle of my speech, I said “If you think you know hacking history and you don’t know the name “Joybubbles”, then you’re wrong.”
Joybubbles (he legally changed his name from Joe Engressia later in life) was a phone phreak. And not just a phone phreak, a legendary phone phreak; blind since birth, he could whistle 2600hz tone into the telephone, bypassing the need for any trickery to do so. He was a humorous, fun fellow, one of the big names. And now we’ve lost him.
Just a few days after my speech, Joybubbles had a heart attack and died in his apartment in Minneapolis. He was 58.
Unlike a lot of figures in history, we are blessed, in our sudden loss, to have a collection of artifacts and recordings of Joybubbles to remember him or learn about him for the first time. He started recording recollections of childhood on a phone line, and called these recordings “Stories and Stuff”. I’ve been keeping an archive here, which is the work of many others who called and recorded them.
Here’s some links to get to know him:
- An article that mentions Joybubbles in detail.
- A memory of meeting Joybubbles.
- Short documentary filming of Joybubbles in action, circa 1970s.
He was a good one. I hope everyone takes some time to find out who he was, even if it makes them miss him as much as I do.
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I was on a Haxor Radio episode where we interviewed him. A really amazing and friendly guy. While explaining telephone stuff he would casually bust out these perfect replicas of tones with his voice that made you pull the phone away from your ear. I’ll miss him.
I only have a few words in the episode but mostly Hairball really picks this guy’s brain for nearly 3 hours with allot of good technical questions. Here’s the episode from the audio.textfiles archives http://audio.textfiles.com/shows/haxorradio/haxor_radio_show_04.mp3
I should probably clean this file up from this original recording I made. Cutting the background noise out and boosting the volume a bit.
Indirectly related … but I wonder what types of physical imprints our generation will leave behind? I have less than a dozen photos of my grandpa, who died when I was a little kid. I have probably a couple hundred pictures of my dad, who is still alive. I have hours of home videos and probably thousands of pictures of my wife and I. I have probably just as many pictures of my kid (who is five-years-old); every Christmas, birthday, and holiday has been recorded and documented in some fashion, and there are videos of him on YouTube.
Just came across this 2600 interview with him in it http://www.2600.com/offthehook/mp3files/1991/112091.mp3
For the man beyond the phone phreak, see http://www.twincities.com/bulletinboard/ci_6665227
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