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Andrei in the office


Andrei's Universe

One man's journey from infinity to nothingness

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Andrei in the office

To be totally obscure: Tuvan Phone Phreaking

Yesterday I propogated the White and Nerdy meme that is now going around.

Today, brandywilliams sent me the original hacker test. This is a 500 question test in a text file from 1989. It is from the original purity test days... It is... EVIL.

It asks such gems as:
Have you ever patched binary code?
...While the program was running?

Then it got on to some that made me smile:
Can you whistle 300 baud?
...1200 baud?

I enjoy these because I used to do this as a kid when I got my first modem.

Then came question 111101: Can you whistle a telephone number?

I chirped up, "No, and I am taking the point, because I know that it's not possible!"
jnanacandra looked at me. "It's not possible?"

Tone dialing is created by playing 2 disharmonious notes off of a grid of tones (DTMF). The top row makes one tone the left column makes one tone. Therefore the top left button is sending the tones of the top row and left column combined. You'd have to be able to whistle two separate (disharmonious) notes at the same time which is pretty much impossible.

She looks at me and asks, "What about Tuvan Throat Singing." I had posted on Tuvan throat singing a little over 2 yrs ago.

I pondered this and wondered if Captain Crunch might have been Tuvan. Well, no.. but it was a musing passing thought.
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But what gets me is even by listening to the tuvan throat singing, I can feel my throat try to reproduce the sound. It's the strangest thing and just freaks me the heck out.

Actually if you whistle and sing in your falsetto range at the same time it shouldn't be terribly difficult, assuming the requisite skills with intonation. My falsetto range doesn't go up there any more but one could probably sing the octave below and use the second harmonic, or use an overtone series if doing it Tuvan style. On a similar subject check out this URL re: harmonic singing -- It's a group I sometimes perform with: http://seattleharmonicvoices.com

When I was in college, I had a friend, who I sat next to in the tenor section of the Musical Union (before I moved to the second soprano section *g*) who could whistle duets with himself.

I'm sure I can't whistle a phone number, but I bet I can whistle and sing two tones and produce something good enough, or could with some practice.

Actually, it can't be done. The different tones you can get simultaneously using Tuvan throat singing techniques are intervals of a fundamental tone and its first 16 or so harmonics--all relatively simple ratios. The DTMF tones are designed to avoid simple harmonic ratios--look at the section in the WP article titled "DTMF Event Frequencies."

It can't be done if you try to use the harmonics from one of the tones to generate the other tone, but it can be done if you produce one tone with your vocal cords and the other tone by whistling. The overtones could come in handy for those of us whose normal vocal range doesn't fall within the DTMF register, but you will still need two independent signal generators, as it were.

Oh, sure--I was just saying you can't do it using Tuvan throat-singing techniques. [Addendum: with one person.]

Ahem, another addendum: ...exclusively using Tuvan throat-singing techniques.

The really bizarre thing for me about the Hacker Test is that many of the arcane skills it examines were pretty much de rigeur in the days of the ALTAIR and the PDP-8. Of course you modified running binaries. Yes I wrote self-modifying code and was quite proud of it. Enter a bootstrap in binary via the front panel switches? How else were you going to get the paper-tape loader in RAM?

One of my favorite evolutions was putting a memory card on battery backup and subsequently powering down the box so I could change the address dip-switches and thereby move the code down to where it would run. Yeah, those were the days...

Can you whistle a telephone number?

I chirped up, "No, and I am taking the point, because I know that it's not possible!"


Whistling may not be possible. But vocalizing is. And I'm not talking Tuvan Throat Magic, either.

I've done it. My junior and senior years at CMU, my roommate would lean in on my side of the room, look at me oddly, pick up the phone and go, "Ooh-uh-ee-oo-ee-oo!" and hang up. Just because he was odd, but I liked him that way. However, I tried that, using my falsetto, and one time the phone rang. I was able to repeat this on more than one occasion. So, the phone number can be sung.

What also helped was that at the time you only needed to dial a 4-digit extension to get to any campus number, so the sounds that needed to register didn't need to be too long a string. So, maybe if you're the only one in your office.... and you're bored.... and curious.... pick up the phone and go, "Ee-ooh-uh-ih-oo-ee-uh!" and see if you dial someone. Who knows, it might be Belgium.

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