Hear how Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak's BLUE BOX worked and why 2600 is such an iconic number for hacking.

Spoken Word with Electronics is an audio series delivering to you a two side recording of unusual stories paired with vintage modular electronic sounds

Hi everyone, welcome back to the show. This week is about loud noises made by computers. Awful sounds like modems, faxes, and my favorite unbearable noise: The firmware update file. Firmware can be updated via an audio file and to demonstrate this, we discuss audio files from Korg's Monotribe, the W-slash sampler from Whimsical Raps, and Nanoloop.

I thought it would be fun to make comforting music from these noises, and you can jump to "The Roomba is Dreaming" to hear the end result. The discussion for this week is a demonstration of using envelope generators to smooth out the harsh tones of a firmware file. In particular, a trapezoid generator based on an EMS Synthi is used to pull out tonal rhythms.

Last week's post on "Booting DOS from vinyl" reminded me of cassette drive loading. We had an Atari 400 and an 800, and both of those used cassettes to load many of their games. I used to love that noise, and I expect Atari filtered the sound of the cassettes themselves, otherwise risk injuring the ears of kids who put the cassettes (intended for a computer) into their walkman (it would still play, after all). So you'll learn about Zaxxon, Frogger, and my favorite Atari cassette-based game: Salmon Run.

All of these sound files work to load data because a lot can be communicated in a tone. If you think about a phone dialer, it is twelve separate pitched notes (0-9, pound and asterix) – These tones are used for any number of aggravating automated systems when you call customer service lines, and they also connect your call. There are a few tones never intended for you to hear, however, including the 2600 hertz tone, which was a tone generated by a payphone when a call was concluded.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak unofficially began Apple Computers with a phone phreaking device called the Blue Box. It was a device that sent out a 2600 hertz tone to fake (or phake) the sound of a phone getting disconnected. The two callers would remain on the phone, however, allowing a free call without billing. So in our introduction this week I demonstrate the 2600 hertz tone using a wonderful iphone app called Phonal Tonal, which replicates a Blue Box, Green Box, and a Red Box.

2600, the hacker quarterly, is named after this 2600 hertz tone, which is a single tone that can override a payphone's pricing controls with one single command.

SPOKEN WORD WITH ELECTRONICS #34: Making Music with 2600 Hz Tones and Firmware Audio Update Files

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Have a very tonal week, Ethan