For years Ron Rosenbaum has been one of the most consistently insightful and clever journalists in America.
I first encountered Rosenbaum's work in Travels With Doctor Death, an old book of his collected stories from various magazines, which included pieces on the Yale secret society Skull and Bones; a Texas psychiatrist who earned his living by testifying defendants into the electric chair; and perhaps the most influential article Rosenbaum's ever written, Secrets of the Little Blue Box.
Secrets revealed the existence of the Phone Phreaks, predecessors to computer hackers who took advantage of design flaws and secret backdoors in AT&T's monopoly telephone system to abuse it to their advantage in the 1960s and 70s, getting free long-distance calls (at the time, expensive) in the bargain. The entire piece is linked above, and you should read it.
The most compelling story told in Secrets of the Little Blue Box was that of the late Joe Engressia, a blind teenager with an IQ of 170 who used Ma Bell's network as his primary social outlet, like a ham radio network or nationwide party line of fellow phreaks and hackers, and a cure for loneliness. Engressia, who later changed his name to his phreaking handle "Joybubbles," was at the same time pathetic and inspiring.
Yet years later, it turns out that Engressia was never alone. Wherever he went, and whenever he picked up the phone, the FBI was with him. Counterpunch has obtained Engressia's entire FBI file. It's an interesting postscript to the story, a peek into the government's early efforts at electronic surveillance, and a history more shadowy than that of that of the phreaks themselves.