John Draper

John Draper
John T. Draper

Captain Crunch, Crunch and Crunchman or Mr. Crunchtastic
Born 1943 (1943)
Website &

John Thomas Draper (born 1943), also known as Captain Crunch, Crunch or Crunchman (after Cap'n Crunch, the mascot of a breakfast cereal), is an American computer programmer and former phone phreak. He is a legendary figure within the computer programming world.



Draper is the son of a U.S. Air Force engineer; he described his father as distant in an interview published on the front page of the Jan 13–14, 2007 issue of The Wall Street Journal. Draper himself entered the Air Force in 1964, and while stationed in Alaska helped his fellow servicemen make free phone calls home by devising access to a local telephone switchboard. After Alaska, he was stationed at Charleston Air Force Base in Maine. In 1967, he created WKOS [W-"chaos"], a pirate station in nearby Dover-Foxcroft, but had to shut it down when a legitimate radio station, WDME, objected. He was honorably discharged from the Air Force in 1968 and did military-related work for several employers in the San Francisco Bay Area. He adopted the counterculture of the times and operated a pirate radio station out of a Volkswagen van.

Cap'n Crunch Bosun whistle CA 1971.


While Draper was driving around his Volkswagen Microbus to test a pirate radio transmitter, he broadcast a telephone number to listeners as feedback to gauge his station’s reception. A callback from a “Denny” (identified in the Discovery Channel documentary about Hacking as Denny Teresi[1]) resulted in a meeting and caused him to blunder into the world of the phone phreaks. They wanted him to build a multifrequency tone generator (the blue box) to gain easier entry into the AT&T system, which was controlled by tones. Then they would not have to use an organ and cassette recordings of tones to get free calls. At least one of the blind boys had perfect pitch and had identified the exact frequencies. They informed him that a toy whistle that was, at the time, packaged in boxes of Cap’n Crunch cereal could emit a tone at precisely 2600 hertz—the same frequency that was used by AT&T long lines to indicate that a trunk line was ready and available to route a new call.[2] This would effectively disconnect one end of the trunk, allowing the still connected side to enter an operator mode. Experimenting with this whistle inspired Draper to build blue boxes: electronic devices capable of reproducing other tones used by the phone company.

I don’t do that. I don’t do that anymore at all. And if I do it, I do it for one reason and one reason only. I’m learning about a system. The phone company is a System. A computer is a System, do you understand? If I do what I do, it is only to explore a system. Computers, systems, that’s my bag. The phone company is nothing but a computer.
Secrets of the Little Blue Box, Ron Rosenbaum, Esquire Magazine (October 1971)

The class of vulnerabilities Draper and others discovered was limited to call-routing switches that employed in-band signaling, whereas newer equipment relies almost exclusively on out-of-band signaling, the use of separate circuits to transmit voice and signals. Though they no longer serve a practical use, the Cap’n Crunch whistles did become valued collector’s items. Some hackers sometimes go by the handle “Captain Crunch” even today; 2600: The Hacker Quarterly is named after this whistle frequency.

The expense of sustaining the unbilled phone calls, the redesign of the line protocols, and the accelerated equipment replacement due to the blue box is difficult to calculate, or even to separate from something as complex and dynamic as the telephone long-distance network.

The 1971 Esquire article which told the world about phone phreaking got Draper in hot water. Draper was arrested on toll fraud charges in 1972 and sentenced to five years’ probation. The article also brought him to the attention of Steve Wozniak, who located Draper while working as an engineer at KKUP,[3] a Cupertino public radio station located near the future Apple campus. In the early and mid 1970s he taught his phone phreaking skills to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who later founded Apple Computer. He was briefly employed at Apple, and created a telephone interface board for the Apple II personal computer, which he named "The Charlie Board".[2] Wozniak has said the reason the board was never marketed was that Wozniak was the only one in the company who liked Draper,[4] and partially due to Draper's arrest and conviction for wire fraud. While at Apple, Draper also wrote a cross-assembler used by Steve Wozniak while developing Apple I and Apple II.[5]

Software developer

Draper wrote EasyWriter, the first word processor for the Apple II, in 1978. According to The Wall Street Journal, he hand-wrote the code while serving nights in the Alameda County Jail, then entered the code later into a computer.

Draper's personal website furnishes a more detailed version[6] of the coding of EasyWriter. Draper was in prison, in California, at the time, but under a 'work furlough' program. This meant that while he had to spend every night in prison, he spent each day working a regular job outside prison. This job was at Receiving Studios, a small band practice studio, and while there he had access to a computer, where he coded EasyWriter. He did take copies of the code 'home' to prison overnight to work on it.

Draper later ported EasyWriter to the IBM PC, beating Bill Gates on the bid for the IBM contract. Draper's company, Capn' Software, posted less than $1 million revenue over six years and he subsequently sued his software's distributor, Bill Baker, over an unauthorized version of EasyWriter that Baker released without Draper's permission – they settled out of court.

Draper's OCD-like behavior and incredibly creative mind has at times led to difficulties with potential clients who find him too encompassing of the original California software community ethos – which he sticks to until this very day. Shortly after Apple released Macintosh he taught an online course in Mac programming. Currently he writes computer security software, is a senior developer of KanTalk!, VoIP client built around singer and actress Lola Blanc (born Kandice Melonakos),[7] and hosts an internet TV show, Crunch TV.

From 2005 to 2010, Draper was the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) for media delivery company En2go, that delivers music, video and other digital content to desktops.[5]

Draper's software development history includes:

  • The Motorola 6800 Cross Assembler for CallComputer (1974)
  • The Charlie Board (1977)
  • Forth 1.7 for the Apple II (1978)
  • EasyWriter© (1980)
  • Advanced 3-D Graphic Design Systems for Autodesk(1986–89)
  • Website Development (1994 to present)
  • The Crunchbox Firewall (CTO of ShopIp 1999–2004)
  • VOIP application for OnInstant (2005)
  • The Channel Manager for the Flyxo Media System (CTO of En2Go 2005–10)


One oft-repeated story featuring Captain Crunch goes as follows: Draper picked up a public phone, then proceeded to “phreak” his call around the world. At no charge, he routed a call through different phone switches in countries such as Japan, Russia and England. Once he had set the call to go through dozens of countries, he dialed the number of the public phone next to him. A few minutes later, the phone next to him rang. Draper spoke into the first phone, and, after quite a few seconds, he heard his own voice very faintly on the other phone. He sometimes repeated this stunt at parties. Draper also claimed that he and a friend once placed a direct call to the White House during the Nixon administration, and after giving the operator President Nixon's secret code name of "Olympus", and asking to speak to the president about a national emergency, they were connected with someone who sounded like Richard Nixon; Draper’s friend told the man about a toilet paper shortage in Los Angeles, at which point the person on the other end of the line angrily asked them how they'd managed to get connected to him.[8] Draper was also a member of the Homebrew Computer Club.[2]

In popular culture

  • John Draper appears as himself in the unreleased documentary Hackers Wanted.

John Draper's story has also inspired several mentions in popular culture.

  • Elements of the movie Sneakers recall Draper and Joybubbles; the character Erwin "Whistler" Emory portrayed by David Strathairn, as well as Cosmo's experience of offering phreaking services to criminals while in prison, were based on them.[9]
  • John Draper is specifically mentioned as "Captain Crunch" in one scene in Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, in which a hacker mentions that "Cap'n Crunch broke into the national phone system with a plastic whistle."
  • Captain Crunch is being searched for by Rockford during a murder investigation on the TV show The Rockford Files, season 5, episode 5, "Kill the Messenger".
  • In Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, John Draper is key to unlocking one of the mysteries within the story.

See also


  1. ^ (AVI) TLC Hackers: Computer Outlaws, Phreak Vids, .
  2. ^ a b c Wozniak, S. G. (2006), iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-06143-4.
  3. ^ Captain Crunch, Stories, Web Crunchers, .
  4. ^ Steve Wozniak, Gnomedex 4.0, IT Conversations, .
  5. ^ a b Captain Crunch on Apple — An interview with John Draper, Stories of Apple, .
  6. ^ EasyWriter, Stories, WebCrunchers, archived from the original on 2007-12-16, .
  7. ^ Kandice Melonakos launches VoIP
  8. ^ Rhoads, Chris (2007-01-13), "The Twilight Years of Cap‘n Crunch", The Wall Street Journal, .
  9. ^ Phil Alden Robinson (Director) (1992). Sneakers (Motion picture). USA: Universal Pictures. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • John Draper — John Draper. Para el químico estadounidense, véase John William Draper. John T. Draper, también conocido como Captain Crunch, es una leyenda de la cultura hacker. Un amigo ciego de John Draper, Joe Engressia (conocido como Joybubbles) le contó… …   Wikipedia Español

  • John Draper — ist der Name folgender Personen: John T. Draper (* 1944), US amerikanischer Hacker und Phreaker John Christopher Draper (1835–1885), US amerikanischer Chemiker, Sohn von John William Draper John William Draper (1811−1882), US amerikanischer… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • John Draper — John T. Draper, también conocido como Captain Crunch, es una leyenda de la cultura hacker. Un amigo ciego de John Draper, Joe Engressia (conocido como Joybubbles) le contó que un pequeño juguete que era distribuido como parte de una promoción del …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • John Draper — Pour les articles homonymes, voir John, Draper et Crunch. John Draper John Draper, connu également sous le nom Captain Crunch, est un phreaker …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Draper (surname) — Draper is a surname, taken from the occupation (a draper was a merchant in cloth or dry goods). It is the 1365th most popular name in the USA, with approximately 22,383 and may refer to: Albert Draper, Canadian politician Blake A. Draper,… …   Wikipedia

  • Draper — heißen die Orte in den Vereinigten Staaten: Draper (Pennsylvania) Draper (South Dakota) Draper (Utah) Draper (Virginia) Draper (Wisconsin) Draper ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Charles Stark Draper (1901–1987), US amerikanischer… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • John T. Draper — bei einer Lesung in Köln John Thomas Draper alias Captain Crunch (* 1944) ist einer der populärsten ehemaligen Hacker der 1960er und 1970er Jahre, einer der ersten Phreaker und zudem Mitglied des Homebrew Computer Clubs. Inhaltsverzeichnis …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • John William Draper — Nacimiento 5 de mayo de 1811 St Helens …   Wikipedia Español

  • Draper Tools — Ltd Type Private Founded 1919 (1919) (as B. Draper Son Limited) Founder(s) …   Wikipedia

  • Draper — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Sur les autres projets Wikimedia : « Draper », sur le Wiktionnaire (dictionnaire universel) Draper, drapier en anglais, un marchand de… …   Wikipédia en Français

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