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'Blue Box' circuit board designed by Steve Wozniak to hit auction block

Credit: Bonhams

A rare phone-hacking circuit board created by Steve Wozniak and marketed by Steve Jobs will go up for auction with a starting bid of $8,000 to $12,000.

The "blue box" populated circuit board was used by so-called "phone phreakers" to hack phone systems and get free phone service. Although "blue boxes" have been used since the 1950s, Wozniak developed the first digital ones in 1972.

The specific, first-iteration circuit board being put up for sale by Bonhams Auction house in a "History of Science and technology" auction was purchased directly from Wozniak in 1972 by the co-signer during a drive together from Sunnyvale, California to Los Angeles.

Wozniak and Jobs marketed the "blue boxes" throughout Berkeley and all of California in 1972 and 1973, selling them under the "phone phreaker" monikers of "Berkeley Blue" (Wozniak) and "Oaf Tobar" (Jobs). They represented the first commercial enterprise between the two Apple co-founders.

"If it hadn't been for the Blue Boxes, there would have been no Apple. I'm 100% sure of that," Jobs said of the devices.

Although Wozniak said that they produced about 40 to 50 boxes, Jobs places that number close to 100. However, many of them were confiscated during police raids. Very few of the original numbers produced by Wozniak are likely to have survived, and even fewer of the first iteration boards are still around since Wozniak eventually changed the design.

"I swear to this day— the day I'm telling you this and the day you're reading it— I have never designed a circuit I was prouder of: a set of parts that could do three jobs at once instead of two. I still think it was incredible," Wozniak said of the blue boxes in his biography.

The specific circuit board will go up for auction at 10 a.m. Pacific in Los Angeles.