2600, the Hacker Quarterly is a magazine that has been up and running for over 30 years. Focusing on the trends and happenings in the hacker community, they’ve watched the world change around us.
When you say “hacker”, people think of a plethora of definitions, especially now with anything remotely clever being labelled as a hack. 2600 was born from a time when hacking was tightly tied to getting technology to do what you wanted in unique ways. Often, this meant taking advantage of systems in their infancy to get what you want.
There isn’t much stronger of an icon in early hacking than the payphone. Early hackers or “phreakers” figured out how to manipulate these new digital systems in order to make free calls or get information that they wanted. Even though pay phones are ebbing closer and closer to extinction, you can still find pay phone images on the inside covers of 2600 magazine.
Pay phones were an interesting way to connect with different locations around the world and Exploring that system was really magic to a lot of early hackers and phreakers.
Phayphones themselves sort of represent nodes on a network, and being public, you can just walk up to them and explore the differences in interfaces like dial tones or switching systems.
To this day, people still send us immense amounts of photos of the phones. In fact, we released a calendar of payphones.
The tone of payphone images has changed over the years, with the more recent ones being dilapidated or not maintained. These pictures are also serving as a bit of preservation or historical documentation of something that was so important.