Dial-A-Joke

Dial a Joke

in
Comment from E-mail

Can you tell us about "Dial-a-Joke" and some of your recent practical jokes?

Woz

Dial-a-Joke was a GREAT thing. I did it all alone, a little before Apple. I did a lot of great things back then. Dial-a-Joke was the first one in the San Francisco Bay area ever. It cost a lot because you couldn't buy answering machines back then. You could only rent an expensive machine from the phone company.

I can't even start on pranks. I still pull good ones all the time. This would be too long a story. Perhaps I'll get to my book some day.

The Dial-a-joke line

in
Question from E-mail

I also remember reading that a woman called your dial-a-joke line, and you answered saying "I bet I can hang up faster than you." and then you hung up on her - was this your future wife? Again this was a long time ago so I'm not sure if that's true.

Woz

True. My first wife. I was thankful back then just to ever have gotten married in my life. There was some doubt that it would happen! I was young and naive and pure and could never possibly not have been there for her alone. But after Apple's success, I found out that if one party wants a divorce then there's a divorce. She certainly has a lot more money than I do today.

Was Dial-A-Joke You?

in
Question from E-mail

I just had to laugh at the part in the movie where someone called Dial-A-Joke. I remember calling that number to hear the joke of the day. Was it really you who did this?

Woz

Experimenting with blue boxes to make calls anywhere in the world while at Berkely in 1971-1972, I encountered a few Dial-a-Jokes in the world. I never used the blue box to save money on phone calls, I was an ethical hacker.

 

So while working as an engineer at Hewlett Packard, designing scientific calculators, I started the first Dial-a-Joke in the San Francisco Bay Area. This was before you could buy answering machines or even telephones. I had to rent a very expensive machine made for theaters, and eventually had to quit because I couldn't afford it. I got so many calls that I had to keep changing the number. Anyone with a similar number would get 100 calls a day. The best known numbers that I had were (408) 255-6666 and (408) 575-1625. I operated Dial-a-Joke out of my Cupertino apartment, where I did a lot of the Apple designing (I designed every bit and wrote all the code including BASIC myself). I used a thick Eastern accent, like Russian, and used the name Stanley Zebrezuskinitsky when I took live calls.