Joybubbles, and the history of phone phreaking

Last year, I posted about the passing of a legendary phone phreaker named Joybubbles. He was a blind and unusually gifted recluse who sought to surround himself in life with things that reminded him of childhood. BB reader Phil Lapsley first alerted us to news of his death, and has since written about what it was like to have the responsibility of cleaning out Joybubbles' home after he died, and the things discovered there. Phil says,

It's been about a year since Joybubbles passed away, and I wanted to let you know my project to document the history of phone phreaking continues. Just this week I finally launched a web site at There is also a blog at I posted my essay about cleaning out Joybubbles' apartment there.

Here's an excerpt from Phil's phreaking history site:

What is phone phreaking?
A phone phreak is someone who loves exploring the telephone system and experimenting with it to understand how it works. Phone phreaking got its start in the late 1950s. Its golden age was the late 1960s and early 1970s.

And here is an excerpt from his essay about Joybubbles.

The smell is the first thing you notice. It's certainly the first thing Joybubbles would have noticed. To my nose, the air in the apartment building is a miasma, an amalgam of the smells of stale food, cigarette smoke, and grease. But I'm not Joybubbles — and one of his favorite expressions was, "This stinks so good!" Joybubbles loved swimming in heavily chlorinated swimming pools for this very reason. He loved smells, in all their varieties.

The fact that there are no lightbulbs in his apartment is the second thing you notice. But it's certainly not something Joybubbles would have noticed — blind since birth, he didn't spend a lot of time noticing light bulbs. Joybubbles once told of exploring a hotel and finding his way to its heavily chlorinated swimming pool after hours, in the dark. The angry hotel manager finally caught him and demanded, "How did you find your way to the pool? There's no way you could have gotten here! The lights were off!" Joybubbles just smiled.

The clutter and chaos and insanity in the tiny apartment is the third thing you notice. What's this? Oh, an old military AUTOVON telephone, complete with the magic extra Touch-Tone button labeled "FO ("Flash Override") that Generals were supposed to use to alert the President in the event of war.