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Phone Trips

Three phreaks on a phone trip

All recordings on this page are copyrighted by their respective authors and are presented in RealAudio format.  If you have a modern web browser, you probably have all the software you need to play them.  Simply click on one of these links and it should start playing in several seconds.  If they don't work, visit to install the RealOne Player. Warning: the Real page will try very hard to get you to download the pay version, which costs $9.95 PER MONTH. There is also a free version that they hide away, so look carefully.

From the RealOne player's menu bar click Tools, then Choose Visualization. Choose the one called "Fire" and watch its reaction to the phone noises.

Scroll down past the list of recordings for an explanation of what this is all about.


I ran a telephone line for many years where the public could dial in and listen to recordings, which I would change every few days. Sometimes I would play phone trip recordings like the above, sometimes educational lectures, sometimes skits that my friends and I would create, sometimes excerpts from commercial humor records. The following are samples.


Me and my friends weren't the only ones who went on phone trips.   Here's another recording with telephone sounds from the Seattle area, and also recordings from Great Britain.  Andrew Emmerson from London corresponded with someone in Seattle 30 years ago and they mailed tapes to each other with narrated telephone sounds from their respective cities.  Here is the tape he received from the guy in Seattle, but he forgot the name.  If anyone can identify this voice, please send email and let me know. Following that is Andrew's tape.  


Phone Tripper and phone phreak Evan Doorbell tells the story about how he got interested in phones and recording phone sounds.  (You can download higher quality versions of Evan's recordings to your hard drive from the Group Bell download page.)

The following recordings of phone trips and switching sounds were contributed by Evan Doorbell.  He has many more, and I hope to have some of them on here shortly.


Evan Doorbell made recordings about phone phreaking and other phun stuff:


Evan Doorbell made recordings of and about several telephone conference lines:


Evan Doorbell was a member of Group Bell. They made the famous "Dom Tuffy" tapes in 1973, based upon a real telco security agent they had encountered: Tom Duffy.  They decided that in retrospect the real Mr. Tuffy was a decent guy who was just doing his job. He wasn't out to ruin anyone's life; he just wanted the phone company to get its "revenue", about which he was genuinely enthusiastic.

Click on the name of the file to play the lower quality version meant for modem users. If you have a DSL line, cable modem, or other high-speed access, click on the 64kb link. ALL USERS can download the higher-quality versions to their hard drive from the Group Bell download page.


Here is a recording made in 1972 of a phone conversation between the young Evan Doorbell and the real Tom Duffy, with a  narration before and after explaining why the Dom Tuffy recordings were made.


Group Bell made other entertainment tapes; here are two samples.


Listen to ALL of the above Group Bell tapes first to get a feel for Evan Doorbell's sense of humor, then listen to:


Evan Doorbell and friends made tapes of other people's joke lines in Southern California:


Phone Tripper Frank Wilsey visited the Vintage Telephone Equipment Museum in Seattle, WA and the New England Museum of Telephony in North Ellsworth, Maine.  Both museums have complete, fully-restored, fully-functional, electromechanical switching machines just like the ones you hear in the phonetrip tapes above.  You really must visit them to see and use the equipment instead of just listening to old tapes.  Frank made tapes on the history of telephone switching using sounds he recorded inside the museums as examples.


Phone tripper Joseph G. Molter (aka JeepMan), email, took a trip to La Crosse, IN and made a recording from a payphone and from inside the switchroom.


Phone tripper Trace McCall sent us a recording he made inside a step by step central office, and he promised to send us more.  The pulse repeating followed by the loud chattering was a CAMA trunk MF sending to the Frederick Tandem office.  At the beginning of the segment, in the background you can make out a "snoring" sound. That's a linefinder group running a switchman-started test.


The following are other people's telephone recordings that I dialed and recorded at various times.


OK, so what are these recordings all about? Why are they here?

Greetings fellow web trippers, my phone phreak handle is Mark Bernay and 35 years ago I used to go on phone trips. Yes, it's true: just like the people in the picture at the top, 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.

This picture shows my recording equipment around 1968, which I used to edit these tapes and prepare them for playing on a public phone number. My current desk is just as messy, but with PC's instead of reel-to-reel tape recorders.

My recording equipment around 1968

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 at the top 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.

Please send your comments and questions to

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