Perfect Pitch and touch tone phones.

Cecil states that there was an individual who could whistle
into a telephone and cause it to ‘dial’ a number by matching
the pitches that a touch tone telephone generates.

Although I have heard this story many times, I find it quite
difficult to believe; touch tones are built out of two different
frequencies for each number. The system is called
Dual Tone Multi Frequency, or DTMF:

So, unless this fellow had a partner who also had perfect
pitch, it would seem that dialing with a whistle would
be a distinct impossibility.

I don’t think he actually whistled the touch tone tones.

Wiki has and article about him too. I was hoping someone else might come along with a better description. I don’t know how he did it, but it sure looks like he did.

There’s a more detailed article here. And more “whistler” background story in the John Draper entry.

I was going to say there are some people who can sing two pitches at once, but then it him me that he was WHISTLING. The only thing I can think of is that the hollow sound whistling makes could’ve “fooled” the phone by picking up multiple parts of the overtones used and registered the two correct pitches (but it would’ve needed to be very. very precise even for PP standards imo).

THis also sounds like something that would be show on next months Wetten dass…

As the NYT story has it, I’d always heard it could be done with a Cap’n Crunch giveaway whistle. I always liked the thought that such a tiny, innocuous, playful piece of plastic could bring mighty Ma Bell to her knees.

Cecil actually misspoke when he said touch tone. The “whistler” note was a single 2600 Hz tone used to gain access to the trunk line. Dual tones were also needed, but not the same frequencies as Touch Tones, so you still needed some extra equipment to do all the cool stuff.

BTW: It is possible to whistle and hum at the same time. I do it sometimes to freak out my dog. I’d be really impressed if someone could match a dual-tone code that way, though. I guess you could whistle one note and play the other on some instrument.

How the hell do you do that? Can we get a youtube video?

Damfino. I’m at work now so I’m reluctant to analyze it. (Open cubicles, y’know.) I guess it’s not really humming, because my lips obviously aren’t closed when I do it. Try starting a fairly constrained lip-whistle and then see if you can get your vocal chords beating. It seems to take more air than either a whistle or a hum normally does.

There might be constraints about the tone combinations you can hit. I don’t have perfect pitch, so I can’t tell what I’m getting. Probably something awful. I never tried to do anything musical with it, so I don’t consider it entertaining enough for YouTube (I guess I set a higher standard than some).

If you want to see/hear it, I think this is what Kirk and the others are doing in the Star Trek episode “I, Mudd” when they make fake phaser noises as part of their effort to confuse the androids.

I’ll let you guys guess whether I’m an inveterate Trekkie or just that old.

Why not both? :smiley:

I can do a hissy kind of “whistle” in thirds over less than an octave. It’s nowhere near the quality that would fool the phone system or impress anyone and the thirds are barely discernable, but they’re there. It’s not a pursed-lip whistle (but I can do that, too, and much better).