Phone Phreaking 101

Presented at HOPE Number Six (2006), July 22, 2006, noon (60 minutes)

Have you ever caught yourself thinking "Gee, I wonder how this phone thingy works?" Do you often dream about what's inside that building downtown with your local phone company's logo emblazoned upon it? Do you find yourself confused when people start talking about "op-diverting," "setting up 8s," or "getting on the bridge?" If so, then this presentation is for you.

Ever since the early 1990s, most people have thought that phone phreaking was dead. They have thrown their black, red, and blue boxes out with their trash and have dismissed the idea of "phone phreaking" with the same zeal that they dismissed the idea of the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. But phone phreaks still survive to this day! The phone network was one of the first great networks. Yet today it just sits there, only explored by a handful of people.

This presentation is an attempt to change all that. It will answer basic questions and clear up common misconceptions about phreaking, the phone system, and telephony in general. It will also attempt to clear up urban legends that continue to exist today and show people that phreaking is not a dead art. Topics covered will include history, basic phone network operation, VoIP, myths and misconceptions, general phreaking, and stupid phone tricks.


  • Black Ratchet
    Black Ratchet is just another phone phreak from Boston. He enjoys computers, radios, and, of course, anything remotely related to the public switched telephone network. He has been playing with telephones since he was 11 and, after a somewhat lengthy sabbatical in college, had a relapse and returned to his old ways in late 2003. He is the organizer and webmaster of Yet Another Payphone List at and is an active member of the Digital Dawg Pound at He can be found at his website ( and on the BinRev forums at



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