Phone hacking in the stone age

phone

This blog post was written under the theme: #FWF Free Write Friday: Keepsakes on Kellie Elmore’s blog.  Have a look at the other posts there in the comment section.

We all know about annoying computer viruses, identity theft and whatever else is bogging down our beautiful computers and mobile phones. Here is something you may not have heard of: phone hacking when phones were still connected to the wall with a wire. Zip back to 1983 and listen in on a couple of aspiring fraudsters.

Hey Henk, let’s call Evert. Rain stood outside my door.

I don’t think so. He’s in Australia. 5 USD per minute, my dad will kill me.

Rain grinned at me. Come and see, he said.

I got in his car, one of those first cars you own, with holes in the body work and door handles missing. We were very recent engineering graduates. Rain drove to the next town and stopped in front of a building site. I remained in the car and watched Rain walk up to a box on a pole on the building site. He opened it with a screwdriver and fiddled with the wires. He then came back, dragging a thin cable over the sidewalk and handed me a cassette box with electronics inside, a keypad and the wire through my window.

His grin only got bigger when he produced a six-pack and a bag of crisps.

Now, he announced with pride, let’s call Evert.

We each popped one of the earphones in our ears and Rain typed a long number onto the numberless pad, something like 14 digits!

G’day Evert! What’s up mate!

We spoke for an hour. Comfortably reclining, hands free to hold a beer, we were two happy  kids. If our 4 years of studying electronics and IT at college had led to this, it was totally worth it!

I made my own cassette box phone with long wire and crocodile clips and took it to Australia. To our surprise and joy, Australian phone booths conveniently give access to the wiring in small concrete pit with lid. We would wire up our phone, slip it underneath the booth and with earphones in, whilst holding the receiver for show, we called our friends and family.

We have Skype and other means now and It is hard to imagine today what calling for free meant to us. Our only other contact with home was through flimsy airmail letters that we picked up every 2 or 3 weeks at some General Post Office in Sydney, Delhi or wherever. Phones were reserved for emergency calls that lasted a minute or less. With our gadget, we got a taste of the future and, we beat the system. We could do anything!

I kept this phone as a keepsake. It reminds me of the days of roaming around the world, the necessity as a mother of invention but mostly the fun we had as a bunch of invincible crazy kids.

We also had hair then, but I repress that thought.

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14 thoughts on “Phone hacking in the stone age

  1. Great story! I guess I am from the stone age too, because I vividly remember queuing at the General Post Office of Wherever hoping they hadn’t put my letters in the wrong place.
    I wish I’d had the technical skill to go into phone hacking, though 😉

    1. GPOs were great meeting places. Sometimes I had to read letters on the spot as they were addressed to a nickname or something and the stern Poste Restante officer wouldn’t let me keep it 🙂

  2. What a wild ride so to speak! Kids have it made today but not with any where near as much fun as in the past. It was just different, challenging, mind boggling for the era! Thanks for sharing!

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