Technology
The ol’ Blue Boxing. Good times, good times.

blueBox1.jpg

For many of us first-gen hacker types (yes, I’m that old. Shut up.), blue boxing was our introduction to hardware hacking. It was never the illegal, rip-off aspects for me, it was proving that you could build something that exploited a vulnerability in a system; to trick it to do something it wasn’t intended to do (the very definition of hacking). In fact, I owe much of my career in tech journalism to phone phreaking. It was a phreak box project in a zine in the mid-90s that inspired me to create my site Street Tech, to cover the burgeoning hardware hacking/DIY electronics scene.

So, I got a huge kick out of seeing this Project MF Blue Box project. It’s a site with instructions for creating a classic Blue Box. What good does such an analog phone hacking technology do you in the digital age? Not much (except the box tones are fun to record, store, and play back), unless you call the Project MF server, where they’ve set up a working simulation of the analog SF/MF signaling used in the public switched telephone networks before the early ’90s. Tres retro!

I’m tempted to build this awesome box. It’s based on the infamous Blue Box depicted in in 1971 Esquire article on phreaking. This modern version is built around the PIC 12F683 MCU. The folks from Project MF Blue Box gave out free PCBs for this project at Last HOPE, so you may already have the board. They’re also selling boards and pre-programmed chips. See the site for details.

The Project MF Blue Box

16 thoughts on “The ol’ Blue Boxing. Good times, good times.

  1. At the risk of sounding like the Grammer Police, it should be vulnerability in that first paragraph. Venerability refers to respect due to age, prestige, etc.

  2. It’s built around a PIC? That’s just not the same as the old analog circuits!! You’d have to use a modern PC to program the chip, for one.

  3. @Anonymous Jerk
    Grammar policing is fine. Appreciated.

    And I know “veneration” from “venerability;” my speeding fingers took it in a different direction.

  4. I’ve recently started a forum that discusses and exhibits nostalgia for old school bluebox, tonedialer, wardialer, etc type applications for 8 and 16 bit machines.

    I felt that my forum was on topic towards this post, so I hope I’m not seen as spamming (its not my intent to do so).

    Anyway – http://www.8bitunderground.com

    No popups, no banner ads. Just 80’s era old school underground goodness.

  5. (Sidestepping the outbreak of venerable disease up there!)

    I wonder how many of us would be here today if not for 2600 magazine? I’m sure I would’ve gotten involved in the BBS scene just the same, but reading 2600 encouraged me to embrace my devil-may-care urge to experiment, as long as I didn’t hurt anyone.

    It also, through the monthly meetings, put me in touch with the group of people I now call my closest friends, and who have shaped my life immeasurably. The phone network is an incredibly complex, wonderful thing, but the people who poke at it are no less amazing.

    Here’s to hackers and phreaks! You’re some of the most fascinating people in the world. Don’t ever stop doing what you do.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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