Awww crap. Joybubbles - R.I.P.

| No Comments
The pre-internet online culture has some amazing luminaries. Tom Jennings is still with us. So is Captain Crunch Unfortunately, Joybubbles is not. High High Geekdom -- Joybubbles was one of the first phonefreakers. The New York Times has a nice obituary:
Joybubbles, 58, Peter Pan of Phone Hackers, Dies
Joybubbles (the legal name of the former Joe Engressia since 1991), a blind genius with perfect pitch who accidentally found he could make free phone calls by whistling tones and went on to play a pivotal role in the 1970s subculture of �phone phreaks,� died on Aug. 8 in Minneapolis.

He was 58, though he had chosen in 1988 to remain 5 forever, and had the toys and teddy bears to prove it. The cause of death has not been determined, said Steven Gibb, a friend and the executor of the Joybubbles estate.

Joybubbles, who was blind at birth, was a famous part of what began as a scattered, socially awkward group of precocious teens and post-teens fascinated with exploring the phone system. It could then be seen as the world�s biggest, most complex, most interesting computer, and foiling the phone system passed for high-tech high jinks in the �70s.

�It was the only game in town if you wanted to play with a computer,� said Phil Lapsley, who is writing a book on the phone phreaks. Later, other blind whistlers appeared, but in 1957, Joybubbles may have been the first person to whistle his way into the heart of Ma Bell.

Phreaks were precursors of today�s computer hackers, and, like some of them, Joybubbles ran afoul of the law. Not a few phreaks were computer pioneers, including Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, founders of Apple.

Joybubbles felt that being abused at a school for the blind and being pushed by his mother to live up to his 172 I.Q. had robbed him of childhood. So he amassed piles of toys, Jack and Jill magazines and imaginary friends, and he took a name he said made people smile.

But he never lost his ardor for phones, and old phone phreaks and younger would-have-beens kept calling. Joybubbles loved the phone company, reported problems he had illegally discovered and even said he had planned his own arrest on fraud charges to get a phone job. And so he did, twice.

Well before the mid-1970s, when digitalization ended the tone-based system, Joybubbles had stopped stealing calls. But he was already a legend: he had phoned around the world, talking into one phone and listening to himself on another.

In an article in Esquire in 1971, the writer Ron Rosenbaum called Joybubbles the catalyst uniting disparate phreaks. Particularly after news accounts of his suspension from college in 1968 and conviction in 1971 for phone violations, he became a nerve center of the movement.

�Every night he sits like a sightless spider in his little apartment receiving messages from every tendril of its web,� Mr. Rosenbaum wrote.
Crap - 58 is too young. He will be missed.

Leave a comment

January 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Environment and Climate
Cliff Mass Weather Blog
Climate Depot
Ice Age Now
Jennifer Marohasy
Solar Cycle 24
Space Weather
Watts Up With That?

Science and Medicine
Junk Science
Life in the Fast Lane
Luboš Motl
Next Big Future

Geek Stuff
Ars Technica
Boing Boing
Don Lancaster's Guru's Lair
Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories
Hack a Day
Kevin Kelly - Cool Tools
Slashdot: News for nerds
The Register
The Daily WTF

The Argyle Sweater
Chip Bok
Broadside Cartoons
Day by Day
Medium Large
Michael Ramirez
Prickly City
User Friendly
What The Duck

Awkward Family Photos
Cake Wrecks
Not Always Right
Sober in a Nightclub
You Drive What?

Business and Economics
The Austrian Economists
Carpe Diem
Coyote Blog

Photography and Art
Digital Photography Review
James Gurney
Joe McNally's Blog
The Online Photographer

A Western Heart
American Digest
The AnarchAngel
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler
Babalu Blog
Belmont Club
Bayou Renaissance Man
Classical Values
Cold Fury
David Limbaugh
Defense Technology
Doug Ross @ Journal
Grouchy Old Cripple
Irons in the Fire
James Lileks
Lowering the Bar
Maggie's Farm
Marginal Revolution
Michael J. Totten
Mostly Cajun
Power Line
Questions and Observations
Rachel Lucas
Roger L. Simon
Sense of Events
Sound Politics
The Strata-Sphere
The Smallest Minority
The Volokh Conspiracy
Tim Blair
Weasel Zippers

Gone but not Forgotten...
A Coyote at the Dog Show
Bad Eagle
Steven DenBeste
democrats give conservatives indigestion
Cox and Forkum
The Diplomad
Priorities & Frivolities
Gut Rumbles
Mean Mr. Mustard 2.0
Neptunus Lex
Other Side of Kim
Ramblings' Journal
Sgt. Stryker
shining full plate and a good broadsword
A Physicist's Perspective
The Daily Demarche
Wayne's Online Newsletter

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on August 19, 2007 11:05 PM.

MIT Professor gone wild was the previous entry in this blog.

RIP - the Queen of Mean is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives


OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 5.2.9