While I can't say that I was on the scene when a Cap'n Crunch whistle would still let you dial long distance numbers for free, I did participate in quite a bit of beige boxing and other activities that seemed to come straight out of a low budget tech-thriller. The art of beige boxing was simple. The actual "beige box" was nothing more than a lineman's handset used for testing active phone lines.

If you couldn't get your hands on an actual lineman's handset, you could make your own by taking a regular telephone, cutting the cord, and stripping the red and green wires. Red for positive, green for negative. After connecting an alligator clip to each of the stripped wires, you were ready to do a little phreaking. I could connect this thing to any phone line I wanted, which always were and still are conveniently located on the side of homes and buildings.


My father's house was located about 40 miles from where I lived with my mother as a child and long distance calls still would still cost me a pretty penny. If I wanted to talk to my friends on the weekend, I would have to shell out my allowance money at the end of the month to pay for the charges. That really wasn't an ideal solution as I would rather be spending my hard earned three dollars and fifty cents a week on cashews and video games instead of grown up things like phone bills.

The beige box solved this problem this by actually letting me hook up my handset to virtually any phone line I had access to and was ballsy enough to hang around at night looking like I was casing the joint. My favorite place to use my handset was at an abandoned warehouse down the street. God only knows why the phone line was still in service but I would hide like a thief in the night and make all my calls feeling pretty confident that nobody would ever be the wiser. Nobody ever was as far as I know.


Not only was I able to call pretty much anywhere I wanted for free, but there were other less savory things I could do with my handset. For one, if I wanted to listen in on someones phone calls I could simply jam the mute button while hooking it to their phone box. There would be no audible "click" that would let someone know that I had connected to the line.

With a little modification, I could even add a light that would signal when the phone line was active. I wasn't a huge eavesdropper, but it's easy to see how someone could use this technique to be stalker of the year or whatever people label a creeper hiding in your bushes after hours listening to your conversations.


If your neighbor was one of those people that practically begged for a flaming pile of shit on their doorstep, again you could resort to the outdoor phone box to make their life a living hell, at least until they called a tech out to figure out what the hell was wrong with their phone.

There are two pin connectors in a standard phone box. A green and a red. Known by me simply as "The Christmas Connectors". These are what I would hook up my respective lineman's handset wires to if I was going to make calls. Alternately, you could bridge these two connectors with a paperclip or other metal object to put the line in a loop (use gloves if you're going to try this or you might get a little surprise).


The people inside would have no dial tone and people trying to call the house would simply get a busy signal. A good time to do this was Friday night because normally a tech wouldn't be available until the following Monday. This was great for people who had a second phone line for their internet because they wouldn't be able to tell that there was no dial tone without actually hooking up a phone to the line.

Normally this only worked the first time because the tech would explain to the people that someone was foxing around inside their phone box. If you wanted to be nasty neighbor of the year, you could dial 911 and watch from a safe distance as the police showed up to their house to investigate why they kept calling 911 and hanging up.


As time went on and computers started becoming more and more common, instead of hooking up a beige box, you could connect your laptop in the same manner using a stripped phone cord and the same alligator clip setup. This was great for dialing into long distance bulletin board systems or wardialing outside of your local coverage area. Nothing like scanning an entire prefix for loop lines and modems at absolutely no charge to you.

Everywhere had modems back then and a huge amount of them had absolutely no password for login. There was the Pearl Vision down the road that I could make up false orders for spectacles, some local air pollution regulatory site, and even the Barta Bus Terminal. I will say that at least the Barta Bus Terminal had a password, but it was the default password for the 3Com Hiper Arc System that they were running. I never screwed with the bus routes or anything but i'm fairly sure I could have made just about everybody in town late for work if I was so inclined.


As the years passed, less and less people relied on using a land line and the practice of phone phreaking became an outdated art. The same goes for wardialing and a lot of the other activities that involved standard telephone lines. Oh how I miss the days when a kid with a MacGyver'd phone could feel like he was a master of the universe.