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Publisher's Summary

Before smartphones, back even before the Internet and personal computer, a misfit group of technophiles, blind teenagers, hippies, and outlaws figured out how to hack the world’s largest machine: the telephone system. Starting with Alexander Graham Bell’s revolutionary "harmonic telegraph", by the middle of the 20th century the phone system had grown into something extraordinary, a web of cutting-edge switching machines and human operators that linked together millions of people like never before. But the network had a billion-dollar flaw, and once people discovered it, things would never be the same.

Exploding the Phone tells this story in full for the first time. It traces the birth of long-distance communication and the telephone, the rise of AT&T’s monopoly, the creation of the sophisticated machines that made it all work, and the discovery of Ma Bell’s Achilles’ heel. Phil Lapsley expertly weaves together the clandestine underground of "phone phreaks" who turned the network into their electronic playground, the mobsters who exploited its flaws to avoid the feds, the explosion of telephone hacking in the counterculture, and the war between the phreaks, the phone company, and the FBI.

The product of extensive original research, Exploding the Phone is a groundbreaking, captivating book.

©2013 Philip D. Lapsley. Recorded by arrangement with Grove/Atlantic, Inc. (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about Exploding the Phone

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Profile Image for Elsa Braun
  • Elsa Braun
  • 25-04-2016

Great Story along with Great Technical Research

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. A great book for anyone interested in technology and/or geek culture. This book does a great job of covering the phone network in the age of phone phreaking. The topic of network hacking with all its issues is well researched and expertly woven into the various story lines.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Exploding the Phone?

Finding out from many of the cases how proprietary technical details of the phone network were easily available to anyone

What does Johann North bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The narrator was competent with technical terminology, both with respect to pronounciation and voice inflection.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No

Any additional comments?

This remains one of my favorite books, in large part due to how well the author blends together research, technical material and a great story. I'm from this era and a lot of this information was new to me.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Howard_a
  • 16-07-2017

A total blast!!!!

Its hard to stop listening! Very fun for technical people. A total joy to listen to. His research is totally phenomenal. If you like technical stuff or even sci-fi you will probably love this book! #History #tagsgiving #sweepstakes

2 people found this helpful

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  • Michael
  • 04-03-2017

Must Listen for Computer Enthusiasts

The narrator pronounces some words strangely and the book gets a little boring about two-thirds through, but it is really a must listen for any technology enthusiast.

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  • Masonc
  • 09-12-2016

absolutely astonished

listening to the history of phreaking gave me a newfound respect for those who were able to identify and explore a wired landscape.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Nick Rosario
  • 08-10-2015

Phreaker 4 Lyfe

I'm a VoIP admin, and I firmly believe that you can't know where you're going without understanding your history.

This book illustrates the phreaker scene and telephone system vividly. I couldn't stop listening, and now I have to catch up on my podcasts.

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  • Joseph Norton
  • 18-04-2014

Phonetastic! Great story of how the phone was!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, I would recommend this book to any of my friends who are technically inclined because it is fascinating history

What did you like best about this story?

The author covered the subject well and even did justice to the people he interviewed.

What about Johann North’s performance did you like?

Johann North is a former phone phreak who is familiar with the concepts discussed in this book, and, his narration reflects this very well.

Any additional comments?

This book discusses the telephone as it was when I, and, many of my contemporaries were growing up. As a blind person, I was fascinated with the phone and the various sounds it made. I would have loved to read this book back when I was a kid. Anyway, it brings back memories of the way I felt about the phone back then. There were so many cool things that could be done with the phone at the time.Great book, and, great narration.

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  • Moire
  • 26-06-2021

brilliant reporting

Phil Lapsly brilliantly tells a story about some obscure hackers with humor and a real sense of history. this book was meticulously researched for years and Lapsley has created a magnificent report. outstanding narration makes it all the better. highly recommend to anyone who used a landline phone before 1984.

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  • Stonepro
  • 02-03-2021

The worst narrator I have ever heard

The narrator sounds like he isn’t a real person but rather a computer translating text-to-speech (I’m not sure that isn’t exactly what it is). Because of that it’s nearly unlistenable,which is too bad because the books content is pretty interesting

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-02-2021

Approachable technology

Most people are just satisfied to use the phone as another piece of technology in their lives but these went beyond and exploring its depths a exploited its weaknesses a fascinating story told in a very approachable form for engineers and others not so technical. I've listen to this now twice and recommended it to other friends.

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  • William E. Johnston
  • 06-02-2021

Nice technology history

A nice technological, legal, and cultural history of the phone system and it’s hackers in the mid-20th c., and how they laid the foundation of the modern personal computer.

A bit long in places, but still interesting enough that I easily listened to the entire story.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 29-05-2017

a really interesting and curious book

I'm partially sighted and grew up knowing geeky kids like the ones written about here so i totally got that. I'm somewhat geeky too so learning about the developement of the US phone network and the ways that curious people found to circumvent it was just so interesting. I've no interest in legal back and forth though it's a necessary part of the story being told. It's just not something i care for.

Johan North is outstanding and should do loads of books. His calming delivery is not without a hint of mischievousness and would be perfect for reading something like a Bill Bryson book.

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