"What's this?" asked one of the policemen.
"A music synthesizer," Wozniak replied.
"What's this orange button for?"
"Oh, that's for callibration," Jobs interrupted.
"It's a computer-controlled synthesizer," Wozniak elaborated.
"Where's the computer then?"
"That plugs inside," Jobs said.
But the most lucrative and amusing part was the blue box. Wozniak showed its virtues to his friends. Wozniak made some calls to his sister who was working on a kibbutz in Israel. On Jobs's urging the pair turned a pastime into a small business and began selling the devices. "He wanted money," Wozniak said of his partner.
The pair employed their own marketing techniques for uncovering customers and boosting sales. They crept along the corridors of male dormitories at Berkeley (convinced that few women would be interested in their little device), knocking on doors and measuring the response to their rehearsed patter. "Is George here?" one of them would ask cagily. "George?" came the surprised response. "Yeah, George. You know the blue-box guy. The guy who does the phone tricks. The guy who has the blue box to make free long-distance phone calls." Jobs and Wozniak watched the expression of their potential customer. If they were greeted with puzzled, timid looks they apologized for knocking on the wrong door and padded off down the hallway. If their ploy provoked a curious response, the potential customer was invited to attend a blue-box demonstration.
After a few weeks the dormitory sales pitches assumed a pattern. Wozniak hooked a tape recorder to the telephone with some alligator clips and he and Jobs explained the basic principles of the blue box. Then they followed up with a display of its power. Wozniak, in particular, relished being the center of attention. "It was a big show-off thing." On one occasion Jobs used the box to make room reservations for a large party at the Ritz Hotel in London and, unable to suppress his giggles, handed the receiver to Wozniak. Another time Wozniak pretended to be the Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and phoned the Vatican asking to be connected to the Pontiff.
The demonstrations provoked curiosity and Jobs and Wozniak made cassette tapes of tones that friends would need to call their favorite long-distance numbers. Jobs arranged a supply of about $40 worth of parts and Wozniak took about four hours to wire a box which was then sold for about $150. To cut down on time it took to build boxes the pair decided to stop wiring the boxes by hand and to have a printed circuit board made. Instead of spending four hours wiring a box, Wozniak could now finish a box within an hour. He also added another feature that turned one button into an automatic dialer. A small speaker and battery were attached to the printed circuit board, a keypad glued to the lid, and when all was finished, a card bearing a message in purple felt pen was taped to the bottom. It read "He's got the whole world in his hand" and it was linked to an informal guarantee. Wozniak promised that if a faulty box was returned and still contained the card he would repair it free of charge.
Return to Little Kingdom, Michael Moritz