To use this page, you must click on this link to download and install the free TrueSpeech player. You may already have RealAudio, but that won't work; you need TrueSpeech.
After installing the TrueSpeech player, choose one of these audio recordings and it will start playing in several seconds. Scroll down past the list of recordings for an explanation of what this is all about.
Greetings fellow web trippers, my phone phreak handle is Mark Bernay and 25 years ago I used to go on phone trips. Yes, it's true: just like the people in the picture above, I would drive around to small towns primarily for the purpose of playing with their payphones. I often brought along my trusty Craig 212 portable 3-inch reel-to-reel tape recorder (this was before cassettes were popular) to record the phone noises and narrate information about them for my friends. I don't go on phone trips anymore and you are probably thinking that this is because I grew up, but no, I never did. The reason I stopped phone tripping is that all phones are about the same all over the country nowadays and they are really boring.
I first started playing with phones -- not talking on them, but playing with the switching systems and the network -- when I was a teenager growing up in Los Angeles. My family moved from Pacific Telephone (now Pacific Bell) territory to General Telephone. I noticed big differences in the noises the phone made as the dial tone came on, in between digits as numbers were dialed, after dialing and the call was switching through, etc. I did a lot of reading about telephone switching systems and visited many phone company switchrooms to learn what was going on.
I moved from Los Angeles to Seattle in 1968. Seattle itself had completely different telephone switching systems than either Pacific Telephone or General Telephone in Los Angeles. When I started driving around the Seattle area I noticed that many of the little towns had their own independent phone companies and every one had different equipment. My phone phreak friends in Los Angeles (and later in Seattle) wanted to hear this variety of phone noises I was telling them about, so I tape recorded by holding the microphone of the recorder against the earphones of the payphones. (I was aware of telephone pickup coils, but they picked up too much hum from the fluorescent lights in payphones.)
Unfortunately I wasn't into photography at the time these tapes were made and I have no pictures of myself on a phone trip. I got the photo above from a friend who also went on phone trips, but none of the people in that picture took part in these recordings. The gentleman at the payphone is famous and you probably heard of him.
Thanks to the TrueSpeech Internet Player I can now make these recordings available to the three of you who might be interested in this sort of thing. TrueSpeech is very much like the perhaps better-known RealAudio: both of them let you listen to long audio recordings over the Internet without having to download the huge audio files first. I chose TrueSpeech instead of RealAudio because TrueSpeech sounds a lot better over slower modem connections, and TrueSpeech will work with my Internet provider's web server whereas RealAudio requires a special server that my provider doesn't have. If you have your own web pages I encourage you to explore TrueSpeech as a free and easy way to add audio to your site.