Back in 1971, a 16-year-old Jobs had just befriended Steve Wozniak, a recent college drop-out five years his senior who shared his passion for coding and building computers.
Jobs and Wozniak had heard about a story that was published that year in Esquire magazine about a man known as Captain Crunch who could supposedly make free telephone calls with devices known as "blue boxes."
In the interview, Jobs describes how AT&T made a "fatal flaw" when they designed the original digital telephone network. They put the same tones that were used as signals between computers in the same band as the one used to transmit voice. As Jobs and Wozniak quickly learned, anyone who could recreate those signals could trick the AT&T international phone network into thinking they were an AT&T computer trying to make an international call.
This insight inspired them to launch a quest for AT&T's secret tones. Deep in the bowels of the library of the Stanford Linear Accelerator, Jobs and Wozniak discovered an AT&T technical journal that laid everything out in precise detail.
"It's another moment I'll never forget. We saw this journal, and we thought, 'My god, it's all real.' So we set out to build a device to make these tones."
After three weeks, they had successfully built a box that could make long distance calls for free. They tested their new device with a call to one of Wozniak's relatives in Los Angeles. "It was miraculous...They worked! We built the best blue box in the world."
Empowered with their newly created technology, Jobs and Wozniak decided to have some fun with it by prank calling the Pope. Wozniak, pretending to be Henry Kissinger, managed to get through to senior cardinals in the Vatican who were sent to wake up the Pope before they discovered that it was all a hoax. "We never got to talk to the Pope but it was very funny."
"And you might ask, so what's so interesting about that? What's interesting is we were young, and what we learned was, that we could build something ourselves that could control billions of dollars worth of infrastructure in the world. That is what we learned. That us two?--?we didn't know much?--?we could build a little thing that could control a giant thing. And that was an incredible lesson. I don't think there would have ever been an Apple Computer if there had not been blue boxing."
So how did Jobs and Wozniak go from building blue boxes that enabled then to make free international phone calls to building personal computers that would eventually change the world?
"Well, necessity...There were time sharing computers available and there was a time sharing company in Mountain View that we could get free time on, but we needed a terminal, and we couldn't afford one...So what an Apple I was, was really an extension of this terminal putting a microprocessor on the back end...And we really built it for ourselves because we couldn't afford to buy anything."
Jobs and Wozniak soon discovered their friends wanted their help to assemble the same computer.
And the rest, as they say, is history.