July 25, 2011

Telecom Blast From the Past: "ZZZZZZ" Recordings

One of the great things about Google+ is all the wonderful folks popping up on it now. Having noticed that a number of old "ancient telecom enthusiasts" (aka "phone phreaks") were starting to appear, I posted earlier today references to a couple of my essays about the beginnings of "telephone entertainment" and "ZZZZZZ" (one written in 2009, the other back in 1991).

This triggered (see the comments on that Google+ link referenced above) a reader posting several FTP archives of old ZZZZZZ recordings. Though I have my own locally recorded ZZZZZZ tapes buried somewhere, it was fun to see these online in any form.

Those archived online recordings mostly date to around the early 70s or so, and I remember writing a number of those scripts. In fact, two of these very brief recordings that happen to be in that collection really struck a cord, and I've extracted them as a single MP3 file playable right here [~1.26 MB].

The first of the two (I wrote both) is especially interesting due to the pops and clicks over the playing of "Jingle Bells." These were caused by notes of the song hitting 2600 Hz and triggering the "SF" in-band signaling system (the same frequency as the infamous "Captain Crunch" phone phreak whistle). In fact, the party who taped that segment for the archive actually edited out several seconds of silence during "Jingle Bells" before the SF filters dropped and restored the audio path. A brief pop at the end of the segment is present for the same reason.

In that first segment -- "Eddie discovers the truth about Christmas" -- the father is voiced by the late Bob Bilkiss, the creator of ZZZZZZ who ran "Z" from his home throughout its entire duration. The voice of "smart aleck" Eddie is, uh, well, you can guess.

The second segment is a parody of a series of detergent commercials that was popular at the time. The obnoxious guy trying to make a deal with the poor housewife to trade detergents is voiced by the same joker who performed Eddie.

It's hard for me to believe that these were made around 40 years ago! Bizarrely, I find that I can still do those voices, too. Scary.


Posted by Lauren at July 25, 2011 02:39 PM | Permalink
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