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It was just after the time cellular phone began to leak in to the middle class Sri Lanka. My father became a victim of a contract too, sharing the destiny of many others in his social circle. I was amazed by it’s powers but not as much as the other non tech savvy people were. I had a friend who shared my thinking and even influenced me more in tech. And I had a brother who always honored his rascal brothers geekdom, and he was there with me, happily, for any seemingly dangerous assignment.

woz-phreaking

Steve Wozniac, The Woz Phreaking (credit: myoldmac.net)

And the other day my brother came with a trick. A trick he found somewhere and we had to get our hands on dads phone for this. And this was the time me and my friend were reading some old bunch of magazines, to be specific, called 2600. We were fascinated by the stuff we read. But most of them seemed technically outdated despite the excitement. And we were eagerly trying nasty stuff on whatever we got our hands on. And my brother promised that the trick works.

The phone charges were so high. And dad never wanted us doing something nasty. Pretending just moving through the menus just for the fun of it was the key to get the phone. And we tried the trick. We just dialed a sequence of numbers pressed this and that and we had access to something looked like a voice mail box system, just like that. There were voice menus to present the basics. After a bit of fiddling we knew how to make something seemed to be new accounts. The accounts had a four digit number. We could send voice messages to another number. And receive messages on the ones we create. I can’t remember whether we have a time limit per message. Anyway the good news was “It’s free!”.

With this we had virtually quenched the thirst of phreaking [1], the cool thing we read on 2600 [2]. Me my friend and my brother were exploring the new world we found. Each and everyday we were trying out new things, Going through new voice box numbers and see what they have in them. We didn’t find much of interesting things. The boxes were spread all over a 4 digit number space and we tried some random combinations. I the mean time we used this as a way of communication. Apart from being free, it was so fun be on it. We introduced it to another less techy friend so we had more people to communicate with.

One thing that made the experience so fun was that the guy who apparently leaked to my brother was pretty much a dumb ass. Being what he was, he was also so determined keep things under cover. We found the voice box of that guy with funny messages recorded in it. It was fun to listen to them. We didn’t forget to scare the crap out him by vocally posing as the administrators of the network. As I can remember, the message we sent him saying that we have tracked him down, stating his address precisely, silenced his dumb roars forever. Not only that, he was also useful in some of our experiments.

I was checking one of our boxes, which had an obsolete number, and probably have used for sending nasty messages to other seemingly active numbers. There was this message threatening to stop fucking with the system. But we never knew whether he is a real deal. But later we found some of the numbers being reset. With time the cellular network had a major infrastructure overhaul and the system was not available there after. But by this time we had had the portion of fun it had for us.

After this I never got to hear of the existence of such a voice mail system. Maybe some other curious kids have had found this system and hopefully one of them find this blog. Or even the real administrators of the system :D.

I got my hands on the book “The best of 2600, A hacker odyssey” thanks to @gihangamos. Going through the first few pages gave me these memories back and thought I should put those together on a blog post. The people who read my blog / knows about me will instantly translate “My friend” in to a name. Hope you are reading this buddy :).

[1] – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phreaking

[2] – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2600%3A_The_Hacker_Quarterly

3 Comments

  1. Poor celltel :)

  2. ;)


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