The Phone Losers of America (PLA) originally began as an electronic magazine which was distributed via Bulletin Board Systems (the internet before there was an internet). The PLA Zine dealt with the usual underground topics of phone phreaking, a little computer hacking, getting stuff for free and learning things that you’re not supposed to. We also specialized in making everything humorous and fun to read since at the time that was kind ofhard to come by in the H/P world.
In late 1994, I was homeless and spending a lot of my time at the airport in Portland, Oregon. I’d hang out in their business center with my laptop computer, connecting to my favorite computer BBSes. Zak (aka el_jefe), posting a lot of nonsense on the 618 area BBSes, as usual, wrote somewhere, “Well, I’m going to start a really cool hacker group and I’m going to call us the Phone Losers of America.” It’s at that point that the PLA was born.
A few months later, around November 28th, I left my girlfriend and moved to Austin, Texas to get an apartment and a job and go to HoHoCon. (I bet I was the only one there that actually moved to Austin just to attend HoHoCon.) I had some extra money so I went to a print shop on Third Street and had them print up 1000 business cards that said, “Phone Losers of America” on them, along with phone numbers to a conference line and a couple of voicemail numbers. When Zak arrived in Austin, we had a lot of fun handing these cards to complete strangers, throwing them around restaurants, licking them and slapping them on storefront windows in downtown and leaving them sitting everywhere at the Ramada Inn during HoHoCon.
After HoHoCon, I decided that I didn’t really like Austin that much, so I took a trip to Illinois to visit my parents. I stayed there for a month and spent a few of my days there editing some old text files that I’d written in high school and during the past few years since then. I slapped new Phone Losers of America headers and footers on them and released them onto all the local bulletin boards. This is where PLA001 through PLA013 all came from. The PLA now officially existed.
Just a day or two after that, the whole Dino Allsman incident occurred, so the next day I wrote PLA014 which detailed that story. Finally, I left Illinois and took an Amtrak back to Austin. I ended up spending the next night in Austin’s airport and since I’d slept in Austin’s airport for many days in the previous month, the security lady told me that if I fell asleep in the airport that night, she’d throw me out. So I whipped out the laptop to stay awake and that’s when PLA015 (the one about beige boxing) was written.
The next day I took a smelly Greyhound Bus to Corpus Christi, Texas, got an apartment and started running my own BBS called Whombat Communications. This is where PLA issues 016 – 034 were written. By issue 021, Colleen Card had moved to Corpus Christi with me and we ended up meeting Nova Storm/Monster Magnet, H00ters and Calimar. PLA seemed to cause quite a stir in Corpus, and one of the local internet providers claimed to have hired an investigator on us and told everyone he met that it would be his personal mission to bring us down. Nothing ever happened with that, though.
During our last 6 months there, I started calling BBSes all over the world, uploading PLA issues everywhere and begging the sysops to create a directory just for the PLA files. This is when PLA started to get really well-known. After living in Corpus Christi for almost a year, Colleen and I decided to move to Oregon. We took a flight to Illinois to stay with my parents for a week, before moving on to Oregon. During that week, the Belleville News Democrat did two front page stories on the PLA and one editorial. After the first front page story came out, I copied it and released PLA035. I guess the front page stories caused quite a stir, because the same day we left Illinois, the police and Madison County sheriff came with my arrest warrant. After finding they’d missed me, they went to the St. Louis airport, hoping to catch us there. But they were just a couple hours too late.
We flew to Portland, Oregon and got a ride down to Albany, Oregon to live. Big mistake. Albany is like a Jeff Foxworthy theme park. Big shiney belt buckles, monster trucks and CB Radios prevail. Some of our roommates passed their weekends by taking their monster truck to a mud pit and driving around with the other trucks. They also liked to play CB tag where you drive around town and figure out where the guy who’s “it” is broadcasting from. When we arrived there I set up the Whombat Communications BBS again and released PLA036 just so I could advertise the BBS. About a month later, I got an account on a local internet provider called blitzinfo.com, set up my first web page called Whombat Communications and took the BBS down forever.
Meanwhile, Zak and Apok0lyps had pooled their money to start a new business in Granite City, Illinois called RoyCo. They rented out a building and started selling computer systems and eventually set up an internet service provider called spiff.net. Since blitzinfo.com was only up about 10 hours a day (a bunch of idiot teenagers ran it) I moved Whombat Communications to spiff.net and creatively named it the Phone Losers of America Web Page.
Months later Zak, Apok0lyps and Dazen moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, shutting down RoyCo and leaving spiff.net in the hands of a guy who doesn’t know much about computers. Eventually he terminated my account and I moved the PLA web page to peak.org (my local internet provider) where it resided for over a year. During our stay in Albany, we released PLA037 – PLA041.
We lasted in Albany for over a year, then packed up the car, rented a U-Haul and drove to Celina, Ohio, making a short pitstop in Illinois, as usual. Most of PLA042 was written during our stop in Illinois and the rest of it was relased in Celina, along with PLA043 through PLA046. I decided that I didn’t want to publish the zine anymore, so on May 5th, 1997, I released Issue 46, which marked the end of the PLA ‘zine forever. But that was far from the end.
Two PLA prank call tapes/CDs were released in the years after that. Various PLA email discussion lists and forums remained fairly active, and PLA TV episodes began being released by RBCP and Calimar. In 2002, RBCP started an internet radio station called PLA Radio. In January of 2006, he started a podcast by the same name. In 2004, Rob T. Firefly, murd0c, Big-E, Judas Iscariot, and I-baLL gave a 10th anniversary presentation to a few hundred hackers at the HOPE convention in New York City.
What’s next for the PLA? Nobody knows for sure, but chances are, it just might be something interesting. Or not. To get an even more in-depth look at the history of the PLA, you should read RBCP’s Travels, which includes a much broader look of the history you just read.
PLA001 How to hack a WWIV bbs. During my sophomore year in high school, Chris Tomkinson taught me a trick that someone else had taught him to get into a WWIV bbs’s DOS prompt. (And there were about 20-30 WWIV bbses to choose from in that area. Man, 618 sucked.) Anyway, it involved extrapolating the COMMAND.COM file, causing an error and giving you a DOS prompt. We stayed up a few nights in a row, getting into kids’ computers and nosing around. After awhile, we couldn’t resist and we started changing things around on their bbses, such as their logon screens (Welcome to the 618 Gay Support BBS!), downloading their USER.DAT files (giving us everyone’s passwords) and adding news subs for people to post on. After a few months it got really out of hand and people were wanting to lynch us. (Security leak, everyone figured out that it was us.) A few months after that, I started getting mail from all these people begging me to teach them how to hack WWIV bbses. Sick of it, I wrote this file just to annoy them.
PLA002 How To Build A Red Box. I’d been red boxing for about a year, using a portable tape recorder. One night some friends took me to some guy’s house in Belleville, IL and this guy was impressed to see that red boxing still worked. He showed me an issue of 2600 that had the article on how to turn a tone dialer into a red box and asked me if I could build one for him. I did, and so I copied the 2600 article into PLA002. Over the years, I’ve added new techniques as I’ve learned about them
PLA003 Getting Revenge. Originally, the name of the person being tortured in this file was Darin McCall, someone me & Chris Tomkinson used to pick on for being lame. By the time this became a PLA file, Chris had pissed me off so I redid the whole thing using Chris’s name.
PLA004 – PLA006 These three files were written in the 24 hour computer lab at IUPUI, the local college in Indianapolis, Indiana. I usually spent every night there because I was homeless and it was cold outside.
PLA007 Numbers to Call When You’re Bored. This originally was titled FUNNUMBS.TXT. I uploaded it to Ripco BBS, accidentally lost my copy and forgot I wrote it. Almost a year later, I logged on to Ripco and saw it there, downloaded it, updated it and turned it into a PLA file. Since numbers change all the time and new ones turn up, I created the PLA Phone Directory, which is the same thing only bigger and released quarterly.
PLA008 Ruining The Life Of A 7-Eleven Employee. Most of this was actually written while working at a 7-Eleven in Portland, Oregon. Having nothing better to do at night (hell, I’m not going to do any actual work!), I would bring my laptop and one night started compiling a list of things customers did to piss me off. Then I started adding things that they could do. Then I just started making things up. (You’ll see the pattern there.)
PLA009 The Jim Bayless Playwrite. Colleen Card wrote this around October 1994 for a school project. The whole thing was acted out in front of a class by her and some classmates.
PLA010 Scanner Frequencies. I was trying to compile a list of scanner frequencies and in hopes that maybe someone would mail me some more interesting ones, I published this. It didn’t work, dammit.
PLA011 Phone Losers Fone Call Transcripts. Most of these transcripts are transcribed directly from cassette tape and the others are done from memory.
PLA012 Converting Your 2400 Baud Modem To 14.4. After successfully pulling off this scam twice at a local Wal-Mart, I had to brag about it to everyone so I wrote this file.
PLA013 Fone Tricks & Petty Scams. This is another one written in the IUPUI computer lab over a period of a few weeks. I was trying to compile a big phreak guide out of all the cool texts files I could find and I wrote this section as a part of the guide. Later I scraped the whole idea but kept this file and turned it into this PLA file a few years later.
PLA014 Cordless Phone Hell. This all happened while visiting my parents. Every word of it is true. The day after the whole event happened and I was sure that Dino wasn’t going to come over and blow my head off with his 12 guage, I wrote this file from the tapes I had recorded, from memory and with Zak’s help over the phone.
PLA015 Taking Beige Boxing To The Ultimate Limit. I wrote this one in the Austin, Texas airport one night when I couldn’t sleep. (I lived there for a few days after visiting my parents.) Of course nothing in the story is true other than the fact that I really did live in Celina, Ohio for a few months.
PLA016 Deaf Fones, Phone Books & Phone Bills. I kept bugging the hell out of Zak to write something for PLA. After weeks of pestering him, he finally e-mailed this issue to me and told me to leave him the hell alone.
PLA017 Letters From The Phone Company. I was going through all my papers and found a shitload of phone company letters addressed to me, mostly demanding their money. At the time it seemed funny so I typed ’em all out and released them. All of them are real except for the one obvious one.
PLA018 Kevin Mitnick Articles. I’d been a big Mitnick fan since I read Cyberpunk so I started collecting all the newpaper articles and text files I could find on him.
PLA019 Fun With Call Forwarding. This was rewritten in Corpus Christi. It’s an old file of mine (written in high school, I think) that I found so I updated it and released it.
PLA020 Alternatives To CN/A. This is another old file I wrote during high school.
PLA021 I started getting really annoyed with e-mail asking me how they could join the PLA so I wrote out this bogus application form in hopes of sending the message, “Hello? It’s a text file, not a club?” Unfortunately, that didn’t work and I still get e-mail like that.
PLA022 BBS Back Doors & Flaws. This one was written by Pestilence, my first actual contributor. The only problem with it is that he kept mixing all the facts with jokes so I have no idea what’s real and what’s bullshit.
PLA023 Long Distance Access Codes. This file has got to be the most useless one yet, but I spent so long scanning out all those access codes that I couldn’t just let it sit around in a file forever.
PLA024 Dabbling in Credit Card Fraud. I happened to be writing this file and finishing it up right around the time I got busted for credit card fraud in Corpus Christi. After I was released and awaiting trial, I thought that maybe it wouldn’t be such a good idea to publish something like this and I erased the whole thing. Then, a month later, all charges against me were dropped so I figured what the hell and re-wrote it. Don’t you love this country?
PLA025 Taking Over Fred Meyers From The Comfort of Your Own Home. This was written from the experience of taking over the Fred Meyers paging systems all over Portland, Oregon. I decided to wait to release it until I moved outta Portland.
PLA026 Detailed Information On Various Phone Offices Around The Universe. This one shouldn’t have been released but I accidentally made it available for download on my bbs, so I finished it up and sent it out.
PLA027 Nursery Rhymes For Baby Phreaks & Other Perverts. Colleen Card wrote all of these while she was living in Oregon and I was in Corpus Christi, Texas on a crappy IBM typewritter and mailed them to me to turn them into a PLA file.
PLA028 Ordering Telephone Calling Cards. This was written in response to some guy on a local bbs asking me how to order calling cards for people.
www.blitzinfo.com This was PLA’s original official home. Unfortunately for us, blitzinfo was run by a bunch of teens in Albany, Oregon and was only connected to the net 50% of the day. Eventually they went out of business and shut down without warning which sucked because we’d just finished begging people all over the place to add our page to their links.
www.spiff.net Originally spiff.net was run by el_jefe & some friends and they were nice enough to give me a free account for my page since blitzinfo had gone down. This only lasted a few months, though, because they turned over the ISP to some guy when they left town for Texas. He didn’t like me at all and his first order of business was to remove my account without warning.
www.peak.org We moved the page to peak.org, our local ISP in Albany, Oregon, immediately after spiff.net closed our account and remained for about 9 months. Even after we moved to Ohio, we kept the page on peak for a few more months.
www.bright.net Thinking it would be more cost-efficient to just host the site on our own local account, we moved it to bright.net only to find out a few days later that bright.net had an extremely slow web server. We were flooded with complaints that the page was taking too long to load so we moved it back over to peak.org until we could find a few home.
www.cocksoldier.com The page moved to cocksoldier when Netmask saw me in #TACD talking about moving my page & offered to host it for me. I forget how long we stayed there and today cocksoldier.com is a porn page.
pla.kracked.com After leaving cocksoldier.com we moved the site to kracked.com and remained there for at least six months. The administrator at kracked.com was always really good at telling people to fuck off when they tried to complain about the PLA so it worked out nicely since everyone and their mother was trying to put the PLA out of commision back then.
www.phonelosers.org During our stay at kracked.com I was considering removing the PLA site forever and just making sure that the back issues got archived somewhere. But that crazy administrator, Micah at kracked.com took it upon himself to register phonelosers.org for me and soon after that our page hits were doubling and I decided to go ahead and pay for the domain for a couple of years. So you probably have Micah to thank that the PLA still exists today because I surely would have put the PLA site to rest if he hadn’t registered the domain for us.
03/01/06 – kitsune from portland, or: Wow man… i forgot all about this jazz for the last 6 years or so. happy memories
02/26/06 – Derek from Satellite Beach Fl: Cool!…. pretty ….. damn….. cool…I think….
01/15/06 – GreyFox from http://hacktek.net: I love your site RBCP. Keep up the good work.
11/08/05 – Red81WhiteSupport from Gilroy,CA: How in the fuck did I get here…reading all this screwed-up mother fuckers shit…unfucking real
10/26/05 – Sulastowo from Jakarta: Just curious! And I think this site is okay..
10/25/05 – PZP from HC, SD: Always been a huge fan of you guys.
09/18/05 – Mike from Virginia: HOW ABOUT A REUNION? EVERYONE GETS BACK TOGTHER!?!?!?
08/31/05 – Jack from Bulgaria: Man Us’s phone companies suck!Here in Bulgaria if you make a red box call, youll be locky :], too much security
08/10/05 – Alton Weed Dealer from Alton Illinois: i hope i see one of you guys around alton , im gonna break ur fucking necks ! LOL j/k i think ur great !
07/27/05 – Stitch from Krypton: Get a life.
07/03/05 – Nora from Canada: Seriously my ex needs an electrical make over!!! SERIOUSLY.
06/09/05 – theRoxy from Texas: so how DO I join the PLA? this was entertaining
03/04/05 – Shadow from over their: ok yous guys need to teach me stuff after i relearn hex.
02/11/05 – Covert from Drr: Kick Ass Site
02/07/05 – michelle from georgia: get a life horny toads
01/22/05 – Missy from St. Peters, MO: This site is fucking awesome. Wait can I say “fucking” on a website? I’m going straight to hell. Dammit. But yeah anyway…your page rocks. I like it. Thanks for making me less bored for 5 minutes of my life. Peace out. Bye.
12/28/04 – No name from No where: Are your 4 hire?
11/12/04 – willy wonka from wonkaland: i like ue site… u need more pictures
03/17/04 – Jeff from Colorado: Keep it up. I think that some of this shit is great. Thanks.
03/11/04 – Brandon from Albany Oregon: hello i live in albany oregon, Does anyone that was involved with PLA or anything still live here? id like to contact them.
03/07/04 – Sarah from Salina, Kansas: Im just a kid and me and my friends die of boredom in Kansas and love to do prank callz!! ur website is tight!!
03/05/04 – Cylos from South Africa: I think your web rullez and u are well travel u are a inspiration to me and my m8’s thanks hope your hard work pay’s of sum day and donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t let any one tell u divert the newb’s that throwing bad comments bout the page have no Intelligence ext THANKS FOR INSIPORING ME!!
02/27/04 – Neophyte from High N!: I am drooling over your powers, and wishing I had a life at the same time. Wow.
02/27/04 – deathboy from southaven, Mississippi: PLA were right there with LOD, you guys rocked !
02/26/04 – Fallen Hell from Mebane, North Carolina: PLA don’t leave!!!! I NEED YOU FOREVER!
02/07/04 – eigerRA from puds: if you ever really did move it was simplicity of this city —forever @ nallens
02/01/04 – Brad from Stockton CA: Great site!!! Tia is a moron.
01/18/04 – Tia from lindsay: your website sucks