First phone phreak dies, aged 58

James Middleton

August 22, 2007

1 Min Read
First phone phreak dies, aged 58

Joybubbles, one of the founding fathers of the phone phreak movement, which erupted in the ’70’s, died earlier this month in Minneapolis, aged 58.

Born blind in 1949 as Josef Carl Engressia (he changed his legal name in 1991), Joybubbles, shot to notoriety when he found out that his perfect pitch allowed him to whistle his way to anywhere in the world via a phone line.

Widely credited with an IQ of 172, Joybubbles discovered that his ability to whistle 2600 hertz into an AT&T/Ma Bell long distance line meant that he could set up free calls to anywhere in the world. And thus the phone phreak movement was born – a subculture of hackers fascinated with exploring the phone system.

Although his telephone hi jinks got him into trouble with the law on more than one occasion, Joybubbles has been credited with as much celebrity as he has notoriety. Both Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, founders of Apple, have said he was an inspiration to their own endeavours in the world of technology.

Another famous phreaker, John Draper, otherwise known as Captain Crunch, also credited Joybubbles with the discovery that the now famous toy whistle packaged in boxes of Cap’n Crunch cereal in the ’60’s could be easily modified to emit a tone at precisely 2600 hertz.

Later, Joybubbles became an ordained minister of his own Church of Eternal Childhood and ran a one-man nonprofit support organisation called We Won’t Grow Up, for people rediscovering their childhood.

About the Author(s)

James Middleton

James Middleton is managing editor of | Follow him @telecomsjames

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