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Exploding the Phone

The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws Who Hacked Ma Bell
Narrated by: Johann North
Length: 12 hrs and 9 mins
Categories: History, World
4.5 out of 5 stars (11 ratings)

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Summary

Before smartphones, back even before the Internet and personal computer, a misfit group of technophiles, blind teenagers, hippies, and outlaws figured out how to hack the world’s largest machine: the telephone system. Starting with Alexander Graham Bell’s revolutionary "harmonic telegraph", by the middle of the 20th century the phone system had grown into something extraordinary, a web of cutting-edge switching machines and human operators that linked together millions of people like never before. But the network had a billion-dollar flaw, and once people discovered it, things would never be the same.

Exploding the Phone tells this story in full for the first time. It traces the birth of long-distance communication and the telephone, the rise of AT&T’s monopoly, the creation of the sophisticated machines that made it all work, and the discovery of Ma Bell’s Achilles’ heel. Phil Lapsley expertly weaves together the clandestine underground of "phone phreaks" who turned the network into their electronic playground, the mobsters who exploited its flaws to avoid the feds, the explosion of telephone hacking in the counterculture, and the war between the phreaks, the phone company, and the FBI.

The product of extensive original research, Exploding the Phone is a groundbreaking, captivating book.

©2013 Philip D. Lapsley. Recorded by arrangement with Grove/Atlantic, Inc. (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

What members say

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

a really interesting and curious book

I'm partially sighted and grew up knowing geeky kids like the ones written about here so i totally got that. I'm somewhat geeky too so learning about the developement of the US phone network and the ways that curious people found to circumvent it was just so interesting. I've no interest in legal back and forth though it's a necessary part of the story being told. It's just not something i care for.

Johan North is outstanding and should do loads of books. His calming delivery is not without a hint of mischievousness and would be perfect for reading something like a Bill Bryson book.

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Profile Image for Elsa Braun
  • Elsa Braun
  • 25-04-16

Great Story along with Great Technical Research

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. A great book for anyone interested in technology and/or geek culture. This book does a great job of covering the phone network in the age of phone phreaking. The topic of network hacking with all its issues is well researched and expertly woven into the various story lines.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Exploding the Phone?

Finding out from many of the cases how proprietary technical details of the phone network were easily available to anyone

What does Johann North bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The narrator was competent with technical terminology, both with respect to pronounciation and voice inflection.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No

Any additional comments?

This remains one of my favorite books, in large part due to how well the author blends together research, technical material and a great story. I'm from this era and a lot of this information was new to me.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Howard_a
  • 16-07-17

A total blast!!!!

Its hard to stop listening! Very fun for technical people. A total joy to listen to. His research is totally phenomenal. If you like technical stuff or even sci-fi you will probably love this book! #History #tagsgiving #sweepstakes

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Michael
  • 04-03-17

Must Listen for Computer Enthusiasts

The narrator pronounces some words strangely and the book gets a little boring about two-thirds through, but it is really a must listen for any technology enthusiast.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Masonc
  • 09-12-16

absolutely astonished

listening to the history of phreaking gave me a newfound respect for those who were able to identify and explore a wired landscape.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Nick Rosario
  • Nick Rosario
  • 08-10-15

Phreaker 4 Lyfe

I'm a VoIP admin, and I firmly believe that you can't know where you're going without understanding your history.

This book illustrates the phreaker scene and telephone system vividly. I couldn't stop listening, and now I have to catch up on my podcasts.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Joseph Norton
  • 18-04-14

Phonetastic! Great story of how the phone was!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, I would recommend this book to any of my friends who are technically inclined because it is fascinating history

What did you like best about this story?

The author covered the subject well and even did justice to the people he interviewed.

What about Johann North’s performance did you like?

Johann North is a former phone phreak who is familiar with the concepts discussed in this book, and, his narration reflects this very well.

Any additional comments?

This book discusses the telephone as it was when I, and, many of my contemporaries were growing up. As a blind person, I was fascinated with the phone and the various sounds it made. I would have loved to read this book back when I was a kid. Anyway, it brings back memories of the way I felt about the phone back then. There were so many cool things that could be done with the phone at the time.Great book, and, great narration.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Rodney
  • 20-02-19

Great book

Excellent book, takes you from the very very beginning of the phone system to the very last switch in the US. It's broken into sections and tells a different story depending on the timeframe, and this format works extremely well. The book moves at a very good pace and was never dull. I really enjoyed this book.

On the narration it was very good, so giving it a 4 and not a 5 doesn't mean anything negative, I just save 5 stars for truly special performances.

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  • SCazi
  • 22-11-18

exploded phone

good performance, good good I'd you wanna know about phone phreaking and how it all got started

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Profile Image for Erik M. Boelter
  • Erik M. Boelter
  • 22-08-18

brilliant writing, & wonderfully read

I've a general interest in the subject, but this work captured my attention and had me "binging" in a way I've not done since catching up on episodes of Breaking Bad. Narration was done by a pro, and the author did a fantastic job of putting this gone era of telephony into print.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Lauren Brown
  • Lauren Brown
  • 29-03-18

Fun with Phone Phreaks

well there may have been the occasional lag in the narrative, the author's writing style could make almost anything interesting, and the story provides an intriguing backdrop to the state of our current Information Age