This is the story of a highly skilled young man's journey that spawned the true seed inspiring the creation of Apple.
The Whistler trial began June 8, 1971. The prosecution began by playing a recording where Jo gives his number to the operator before making the long-distance call.
The Judge exploded: "Wait a minute! He gave his number? You know who he called, and you know how long he talked?"
Judge: Why didn't you just bill him for the call?
Prosecution: Your honor, he's a threat to national security. He calls through a satellite sometimes.
Judge: Who owns the satellite?
Prosecution: Um... we are not sure.
Judge: What!? You don't even own the satellite. I should throw you out of my courtroom.
The judge ultimately reduced the charge to malicious mischief. Jo was fined $10 and sentenced to 60 days in jail.
Jo's heart sank as he realized he was headed to jail after all.
The judge looked over at Jo, paused awhile... banged his gavel and said, "Sentence suspended."
Jo was to be immediately released. In an instant, he went from pained despair to utter relief and elation. But would the plan work? Would Jo finally find his way?
To Jo's deep satisfaction, he received four job offers the very next week. He accepted a $2/hr. job with Millington Telephone as a network security engineer, a position until that day that had never existed, and thus an entire new industry career was born.
Touching story, but what does any of this have to do with Apple, you may ask.
In Steve Jobs's biography and interviews, he talks about how he and Steve Wozniak came to form Apple. He mentions how Woz accidentally came across an obscure technical magazine article that described how to build these "blue boxes" that let you make free long-distance calls. Steve then states how he and Woz decided to build and sell the blue boxes.
Guess where that article came from? Jo, the Whistler, and three friends: Bill, Rick, and Denny. Four phone phreaks invented and built the blue boxes to duplicate Jo's whistling ability.
Oh, and by the way, they were all blind. Isolated and shunned in the realm of the sighted, somehow they found one another in the dark, secret sound pathways of the telephone network.
Jo's Whistler trial culminated in a media frenzy, which led to that fateful article about phone phreaking and blue boxes, which had been lying dormant, waiting to be rediscovered by Wozniak years later.
Without our four blind phone phreaks curiously hacking the telephone network, Woz would never have read an article on how to build the fated blue box -- the same blue box that is credited by both Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak as the underlying reason they formed Apple. Jo planted the seed that has grown into the ground-breaking giant we all know as Apple. It makes one wonder what other seeds are hidden in plain sight and awaiting discovery.
Source for Jo's story: Exploding the Phone by Phil Lapsley (Grove Press, 2013)
— Keith Schaub, founder of Wireless SOC Test Inc., author of Production Testing of RF and SOC Devices for Wireless Communications, has over 15 years of experience in RF/microwave system design and test engineering. Schaub works at Advantest with w2bi on System Level Testing (SLT) and SOC businesses. He has a BSEE from Texas A&M and an MSEE from the University of Texas at Dallas.