Phone Phreak

Phone Phreak

My first year of UC Davis I lived in one of the high-rise dorms. Even though the building was 6 stories high and made of concrete, living with loud noises always seemed to be a problem. Freshmen are not known for being polite neighbors and would blast their music at “level 11”, or leave their locked room with their alarm clock beeping. But probably the worst of all was living below someone who liked to play basketball in their room. Two of the girls on my floor were plagued by such a problem, and despite little friendly post-it notes, calls to the RA or complaints to the housing office, nothing seemed to prevent the upstairs guys from dribbling their basketballs at all hours of the night. It finally got to the point where they were contemplating breaking into their rooms and thrashing all their stuff in revenge, or doing something equally nasty when they came to me for advice. Being one of the prank kings of the floor I thought about it for a couple of days, and came up with what I thought would be the proper level of prank to punish the upstairs guys.

Because of the way the building was constructed, all of the electrical wiring for the upper floor rooms passed directly through the wall of the room directly beneath it. By accessing the electrical panel for the girl’s room, I could also access the wiring for the basketball guys’ room as well. It was just a matter of testing to figure out which cable went to who’s room in the column of rooms above the girls’. So after some fiddling and re-wiring, I taped into the basketball guys’ telephone line and installed a telephone receptacle in the girls’ room. Any time they wanted to they could plug a phone into the line and be able to make calls as if they were in the guys’ room.

Back in the day, (when I was living in the dorms) the internet wasn’t accessible by most people. In fact, the only way to access the internet was by using on of the school’s computers and even then, there wasn’t a lot to see besides e-mail because HTML was still in relative infancy. The way people got their computer kicks back then was by using a modem and telephone line to directly connect to a Bulletin Board System. Some of these BBS let you play games, or share files, and formed the first chat rooms. But the only way to reach a BBS was to call them which meant you had to pay the phone company to get there.

Another girl on the floor was addicted to one such BBS, and dialed into it as often as she could. The problem was that the BBS was located in Australia, so in addition to tying up the phone line, it wasn’t just a long distance phone call, it was an international phone call! The girls worked out a deal so that any time the Basketball guys dribbled the ball in their room, or did other things that prevented them from sleeping or studying or any of the things girls do that requires a little peace and quiet, they would invite BBS girl to come over and dial into her Australian BBS, for as long as the noise persisted. The guys were so loud and obnoxious with their music and basketball (sometimes at the same time) that BBS girl got to spend quite a bit of happy time on her BBS. By the time the bill arrived, the guy’s phone bill was over $300.

The guys complained to the campus phone company and said that there had to have been some sort of mistake, but the billing department wouldn’t budge claiming that there was no mistake, and that the phone calls had definitely come from their room. Each of them blamed the other for the bill since neither wanted to be the one stuck with it. They guys argued and argued, and eventually it got to the point that one of the guys moved out of the room and into another dorm. The new guy that took his place was someone moving out from under a noisy neighbor, so he understood the amount of noise the basketball was making and made the other stop. By this time I had removed all evidence of the phone tap, and the girls were sleeping and studying to their hearts content. Thus endeth my career as a phone phreak.

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