This is the story of a brilliant, highly skilled young man's journey that spawned an entire new industry of engineers and arguably was the true seed inspiring the creation of Apple.
In 1968, a young man by the name of Jo was kicked out of his university, investigated by the FBI, and nearly went to prison all because he had developed an unusual skill.
He had discovered how to make free long-distance calls simply by using his voice and whistling various tones and clicks into the receiver. That skill earned him the nickname the Whistler but got him into trouble with the FBI.
After Jo's arrest, the news media exploded with stories of this young man's ability to manipulate the cryptic phone to do his bidding. Jo's popularity grew as articles were written and interviews conducted. He even appeared as a guest on various radio stations.
Living alone in a cheap apartment, unemployed, Jo barely got by on his disability checks. Despite his newfound notoriety, Jo was still unsuccessful in landing a job. Companies in the late 60s saw Jo's disability as a liability.
You see, Jo was blind. In fact, Jo had been born blind, but from the age of four had found comfort with the always accepting operator voices at the other end of his phone. Living off disability, broke, unemployed, no prospects, and facing eviction, the Whistler needed a job badly. Jo hatched a desperate plan that can only be described as insane, but would prove to be pure genius. In fact, it created an entire new engineering profession and I believe culminated in a pivotal moment, without which Apple may never have existed.
Jo decided to blatantly disregard the Judge's warning to stop making free long-distance calls. In fact, Jo had decided to announce his whistling intentions to the phone company and purposefully get caught.
He hoped with all the media attention, perhaps some company would take notice of his special skills and overlook his blindness. But, there was also a good chance he'd just end up going to jail for a very long time.
Jo called the phone company, GTE, complaining of problems with his home phone and knowing their standard procedure was to assign a technician to monitor his line. Then he'd announce into the receiver that he was making a free long-distance call and whistle up a connection. He did this over and over again for several days. He called anywhere that might get him in trouble: the Dept of Defense, the Justice Department, the US Embassy in Russia, but no one came to arrest him. Jo complained to his eavesdropping monitor that they had to come and arrest him before July, because he was being evicted!
Jo worried that maybe nobody was listening to his calls, so he reverse-wiretapped his own line. This created some sort of cross-circuit where he could hear the guys from GTE talking about him as they monitored his line. They'd say things like, "What is this guy doing? He's calling where? Did he just say he's calling Washington? Get Fred in here, he's not going to believe this!"
Satisfied they were listening, Jo called NORAD -- the North American Aerospace Defense Command. That prompted the monitors to take action!
On June 2, 1971, the FBI showed up and arrested Jo. Locked away in a jail cell, he was relieved when two newspapers and a TV reporter showed up to interview him. Jo's plan seemed to be working, but then again, he might just end up behind bars indefinitely. He entered a plea of not guilty on two counts of fraud for making free phone calls.