In the 1970s, a phreaker whose moniker was “Cap’n Crunch” discovered that a whistle found in Cap’n Crunch cereal boxes could produce a tone with the frequency of 2600 Hz. This frequency was the one used by the American Telephone and Telegraph company and other long-distance companies at the time to indicate that long-distance lines were open. With this discovery, John Draper was able to engage in party-line telephone calls with his friends—without paying for the service. He would tell his friends about his special trick so that they, too, could place long-distance calls without paying for them. Legend has it that one of John’s popular antics was to connect back to himself around the globe through seven countries—just to hear his voice with a 20-second delay.
In 1971, after a journalist wrote an article about John Draper’s phreaking, he was imprisoned. While incarcerated, Draper was approached by Mafia members wanting to utilize his phreaking skills to perform certain prescribed duties for them, but Draper refused to assist the Mafia. For this reason, he was severely beaten.
Upon his release from prison, Steve Wozniak, the developer of the Apple II computer, asked John to stop phreaking in favor of computer programming. After engaging in a few “modem-related’ incidents on the Apple II (the modems were much like computerized blue boxes used in phreaking), Draper wrote “Easy Writer,” the hugely successful word processing program sold by IBM with its PCs.
Draper has attended hacker conferences, such as the H2K, and he is still keenly interested in what goes on in the computer underground.
Baard. M. John Draper (a.k.a. Cap’n Crunch) Reinvents Himself. [Online, March 19, 2003.] CXO Media, Inc. Website. http://www.darwinmag.com/read/buzz/column .html?ArticleID=712; Schell, B.H., Dodge, J.L., with S.S. Moutsatsos. The Hacking of America: Who’s Doing It, Why, and How. Westport, CT: Quorum Books, 2002.