Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Joybubbles, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak & "Phone Phreaks"

For several years I have been a marketing and public relations consultant to massage pioneer Sister Rosalind Gefre and her Sister Rosalind Schools and Clinics of Massage (, with locations throughout Minnesota and North Dakota. Now 77 years old, Sister Rosalind has been featured on radio, television and in print publications throughtout the world, including Time Magazine.

As part of her "massage ministry", Sister Rosalind has held a number of public prayer meetings dedicated to healing. One of the frequent attendees at these meetings was an interesting fellow I met and spent time with named Joybubbles. Born blind with a genius IQ, Joybubbles shared his life story with us at the first prayer meeting he attended, a poignant story of being sexually abused as a child by one of his teachers, who was a nun, and then years later legally changing his name from Joe Engressia to Joybubbles to put his past behind him. He said: "I went to court and rendered the name I was abused under null and void forever," he said. "I never have to say it again."

Joybubbles was an ordained minister of his own
Church of Early Childhood but he was most famous for his history as a phone phreak. Phone phreaks were the 70's version of today's computer hackers. With his perfect pitch, Joybubbles accidentally discovered he could make free phone calls by whistling tones and then became a key character in the phone phreak subculture, which included Apple computer co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. In fact, in the book iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It, Steve Wozniak gave credit to Joybubbles as being an early inspiration.

Joybubbles was a very special person. He lived by himself in an apartment in Minneapolis and traveled throughout the Minneapolis-St. Paul area using a special service for people with disabilities or health conditions called Metro Mobility. He was upbeat, positive, enthusiastic and very knowledgable about many subjects. He was willing to share of himself and give to others. He was, in fact, a real "joy bubble" and demonstrated how someone with such a disability as being blind, could live a full and rich life. At the same time, I witnessed the tremendous damage that had been done to him by the betrayal of a religious authority figure through sexual abuse. During my former career as a psychotherapist, I counseled many victims of child sexual abuse and saw how it is a real soul killer. Even with a lot of therapy, these individuals usually struggle their whole lives with the consequences.

I will not forget Joybubbles.

He died at the age of 58 in Minneapolis on August 8, 2007.

Articles about Joybubbles:
Joybubbles and Mr. Rogers
He Had An Ear for It
Joybubbles, Phone Hacker Extraordinaire
A Conversation with Joybubbles
Hear about Joybubbles on National Public Radio "All Things Considered"
Joybubbles, Peter Pan of Phone Hackers, Dies (New York Times)

Listen to Stories by Joybubbles:
Archive of Stories and Stuff, a weekly story-by-phone line from one of the most famous phone phreaks of all time.

Joybubbles collected tapes of every “Mr. Rogers” episode. When asked why Mr. Rogers mattered, he said: “When you’re playing and you’re just you, powerful things happen.”

from JOYBUBBLES Article in Pioneer Press

"Hi, this is Joybubbles."

5/15/2001: "Friday, May 25th, is my birthday. What a wonderful day to be 5: the fifth month, and the five-times-five day. And I want to shamelessly tell you my birthday wishes. Maybe then they might come true:

"I wish everybody that has been hurt and abused by enemies of childhood when they were little would come to know, now and always: It's not your fault. You did the best you could at the time, with who you were. Maybe now you think of things you could have done, or ought to have done - but remember: You weren't then who you are now, and the wisdom you have now, you didn't have then. You did the best you could, at the time, with who you were. And if you would've known better, you would've done better. It's not something wrong with you; it's something wrong with the people who did that to you. Remember: It's not your fault.

"My second wish is: I wish everybody would take a little time, even if it's only once a month, to get out of the rat race into the sandbox and play like a child. Because, like Mister Rogers said: 'Sometimes I'm a child, still - and sometimes, not so still.'

"My third wish: I wish my friend Adele Lorraine would get well. She suffered a massive stroke - but the way I remember her is: so bubbly and lively and wonderful and full of laughs and hugs. She played at the Minnesota Orchestra and went to schools to help kids learn about loving music. The thing I remember most is: During the time when I was just obsessed by oboes ... I even just loved to say the word 'oboe' ... she picked me up and took me to Orchestra Hall, and a lady came in and played an oboe from the lowest to the highest, so I could hear it really good, and then took one apart and showed me the insides, and how to make reeds, and we talked and laughed and spent half a day just with oboes. Then Adele Lorraine took me out, and we got this great big pickle for me to eat on while we were waiting for your butter-pecan ice cream, and we laughed and hugged. And she let me play some pan pipes. And we went out and tried Greek food. And she was just so full of life and shared her fullness with others. I'll always remember her. May she be well.

"At 5:55 in the morning on my birthday, I always get out my huggable globe - big, soft world - and hug it and think all kinds of peaceful thoughts out to this wonderful world we live in.

"Now you know what my birthday wishes are. Happy birthday to me."