The Midnight Computer Wiring Society presents................ ............................................................................. 2/20/91 COCOTS: What the hell are they anyway? by ..oooOO Count Zero OOooo.. -=*:MCWS:*=- BONUS!-> plans for the COMBO-BOX ............................................................................ So...you're walking down the street and you see a payphone...gotta make an important call, so you dig into your pocket to get a dime...picking up the handset, you suddenly notice that the payphone wants a QUARTER for a local call!...what the hell?....and WHERE did this synthesized voice come from?... Let's make this phile short and to the point..a COCOT is an acronym for Customer Owned Coin Operated Telefone...in other words, a COCOT is a fone OWNED or RENTED by a PAYING CUSTOMER (most likely, a hotel or donut shop)..a COCOT is NOT a normal payfone...the Telco doesn't own it, and the actual fone line is usually a normal customer loop (unlike payfones, where the fone line is a "special" payfone loop, allowing the use of "coin tones" to indicate money dropped in..more on this later)... SO!...A COCOT may LOOK and SMELL like a telco payphone, but it is NOT.... * Why do COCOTs exist? Simple....$$$$$$$!...a customer owned payfone is money in the bank!..you pay MORE for local calls...and long distance is typically handled by sleazy carriers that offer poor/EXPENSIVE service..the owner/renter of the COCOT opens the coinbox and keeps the money him/herself!...Also, a particularly SLEAZY quality of a COCOT is the fact that it DOES NOT RECIEVE INCOMING CALLS..this, of course, is because of $$...if people are calling IN to a COCOT, the COCOT is not making money...and businesses always want to make as much $$ as possible...even if it hurts the consumer...(think about it..it REALLY sucks calling someone at home from a COCOT, then not be able to have him/her call you back to save $$..."Guess I'll have to keep feeding the COCOT quarters!") * Where is a good place to look for COCOTs? Outside Dunkin Donut shops, restaurants, clubs, bars, and outside/inside hotels...."convenient" locations * How do I figure out if I have found a COCOT? Simple..a COCOT will have NO TELCO LOGOS on it....no New England Telefone symbols....it may look just like a Telco fone...chrome, with blue stickers and all that...ALSO..a COCOT typically charges MORE for a local call than a regular Telco payfone (in Massachusetts, local calls are a dime, in places like NYC, they are 25 cents..)....a COCOT will most often have a synthesized voice that asks you to "please deposit 25 cents" or whatever...ALSO...some FaNcY COCOTS will not look like payfones at all...some in hotels have weird LCD displays and look totally different..but the ALWAYS charge you more than a normal payphone.. * OK, I found this weird payphone in Boston that wants a quarter, and this synthesized voice is harassing me...when does the phun begin? Soon..first of all, you must understand that the COCOT is a MIMIC... essentially, it wants you to THINK that it is just a plain ol' payfone...pick up the handset..hear that dialtone?...HAH!...that dialtone is FAKE... synthesized by the innards of the COCOT....you are at the mercy of the COCOT.. REMEMBER...a COCOT runs off of a normal customer loop..SO...unlike a Telco payfone where you MUST deposit money to generate coin tones that are read by the CO, the SECURITY of a COCOT depends SOLELY on the COCOT fone itself...its as if you took your own fone and put a sign on it saying "Please put 10 cents in this jar for every call you make."....COCOTS are not naiive...they won't let you NEAR the unrestricted dialtone until you fork over the cash-ola..heh heh.. or so they THINK! See, the Achilles heel of the COCOT is the FACT that ALL PAYFONES MUST LET YOU MAKE 1-800 CALLS FOR FREE!...it's not just a fact, it's the LAW...so, now pick up the handset again and place a 1-800 call....any 1-800 number will do. When they answer at the other end, just sit there....do nothing...ignore them. wait for them to hang up the fone....here's an example.. <DIAL 1-800-LOAN-YES> <Ring, Ring>.....<click> "Hello, you wanna buy some money? Hello? HELLO?!" <CLICK> <You will now hear some static and probably a strange "waffling" noise, like chh,chh,chh,chh,chh> <CLICK>......DIALTONE! NOW!..what have we got here?...a DIALTONE?...yes, you guessed it, the dialtone you now hear is the UNRESTRICED dialtone of the COCOT's customer loop... * So what?..So I got an "unrestricted dialtone"...big deal? Meathead!...with an UNRESTRICTED dialtone, all you need to do is place a call via DTMF tones (the tones a touch-tone keypad generates)...now, try dialing a number with the COCOTs keypad...WHOA!..waitasec, no sound!..heh heh..this is a typical lame attempt at protection by the COCOT..just WHIP out your Radio Shack pocket tone dialer, and try calling a number...ANY number...place it just as if you were calling from a home phone...call a 1-900 sex line...call Guam...you are FREE..and the COCOTs customer loop is being billed! ***NOTE:..some COCOTS are more sophisticated at protecting themselves..some will RESET when they hear the dialtone...to get around this, make a loud hissing sound with your mouth into the mouthpiece after the 1-800 number hangs up...also, get your tone dialer ready near the mouthpiece..when u hear the dialtone, quickly dial the first digit of your number to call...if you hiss loudly enough, you MAY be able to mask the sound of the dialtone and prevent the COCOT from resetting...and once you dial the first digit of the number you are calling, the dialtone will disappear (naturally)...ok, you can stop hissing like an idiot now..finish dialing your PHREE fone call.. Also, some COCOTs actually disable the handset after a call hangs up (in other words, you can't send DTMF tones thru the mouthpiece)....oh well, better luck next time.. HOWEVER...MOST of the COCOTs I have run across ONLY disable the DTMF keypad.. so all you need is a pocket dialer to circumvent this! OTHER THINGS TO KNOW:...Sure, you can't call a COCOT, but it DOES have a number ..to find out the COCOT's number, call 1-800-933-3258..this automated ANI service will tell you the number you're dialing from...now, try calling the COCOT from another fone..you will hear one of 2 things: 1) synthesized voice "Thank you"...CLICK..<hang up> 2) weird carrier A COCOT's number is ONLY used by the company that BUILT the COCOT..by calling up a COCOT, a tech. can monitor its functioning, etc...in case (1), you must enter a 3 or 4 digit password and then you'll get into a voice menu driven program that'll let you do "maintenance" stuff with the COCOT...in case (2), you are hooked to the COCOT's 300 bps modem (YES, a MODEM in a PAYFONE).. likewise, if you can figure out the communication settings, you'll be into the COCOT's maintenance routines..... Personally, I haven't had much luck (or patience) with calling up and hacking COCOT maintenance functions..I just like making free fone calls from 'em! COCOT ETIQUETTE: Now, remember, you are making free fone calls....but SOMEONE has to pay for 'em...and that is the OWNER...the COCOT's customer loop is billed the cost of the calls, and if the OWNER sees a big difference in the profits made on the COCOT (profit=coins from COCOT - bill from Telco for customer loop)..they'll know SOMETHING is up...so..moral is DON'T ABUSE THEM!..don't call a 1-900 number and stay on the line for 12 hours!....if a COCOT is abused SEVERLY, an owner will eventually LOSE money on the damn thing!...and that means..BYE BYE COCOT...also, remember that a RECORD of ALL LONG DISTANCE calls is made to the COCOT's customer loop..and COCOT companies will sometimes investigate "billing discrepencies"....so don't call anyone you personally know unless you are sure they are "cool"..