I was about 14 years old when I figured out how to bug my family’s home telephone.
Although it was a touchtone phone instead of rotary dial by then, it looked a lot like this one. It was mounted on a wall in a hallway in the middle of the house. I had been tinkering for years with wires, batteries, phone parts and tape recorders. I understood the basics of the technology.
The cable containing four wires ran down the wall and through the floor to an unfinished basement. It was there that I conducted my experiment. I figured out how to trigger the power to a tape recorder when the phone rang. I had spliced the two wires carrying voices into a line-in cable to the recorder.
Every time the phone started ringing, the recorder started — with the record buttons already in position — and it recorded the conversation. I don’t recall how I rigged it to know when a call was over.
For a long time, I’ve told this story with amusement, but it wasn’t until the last few years that I understood what it was all about. The real insight in this story is that I didn’t trust anybody — and I thought nothing of betraying their trust, too.