Captain Crunch

IRL Name: 
John T. Draper

John Draper (born 1944), also known as Captain Crunch, Crunch or Crunchman (after Cap'n Crunch, the mascot of a breakfast cereal), is a former phone phreak.

Draper was 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. 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.

A blind friend of John Draper's named Joe Engressia (later known as Joybubbles) 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. 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.”—From Secrets of the Little Blue Box by 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 could no longer serve 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, but it is generally acknowledged to be a huge sum.

The 1971 Esquire Magazine 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. In the 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. Wozniak has said that the reason that the board was never marketed was that Woz was the only one in the company who liked Draper and partially due to Draper's arrest and conviction for wire fraud in 1977. Draper wrote EasyWriter, the first word processor for the Apple II, in 1979. 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. However, another account had him writing the code as he served his four-month sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution, Lompoc, California.

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. In the 1980s, Draper worked for Autodesk, but was laid off. His eccentric behavior sometimes led to difficulties with potential clients. Shortly after Apple released Macintosh, he taught an online course in Mac programming. Currently he writes computer security software, is senior developer of KanTalk! VoIP software for teen singer/software model Kandice Melonakos, and he hosts an Internet TV show, Crunch TV.

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. Draper also claimed that he once managed to place a direct call to the White House and spoke directly with someone who sounded like Richard Nixon; Draper told him about a toilet paper shortage in Los Angeles. Draper was also a member of the Homebrew Computer Club.

John Draper's story inspired several mentions in popular culture. Elements of the movie Sneakers, including the character Whistler, and Cosmo's experience of offering phreaking services to criminals while in prison . Moreover, John Draper is specifically mentioned as Captain Crunch in one scene in the Cowboy Bebop Movie, where a hacker mentions that "Cap'n Crunch broke into the national phone system with a plastic whistle." He is also portrayed in the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley.


Created EasyWriter, the first word processor for the Apple ][ and IBM PC

Spent time in prison for phone phreaking

Likes to enjoy energy workouts with young men and teenage boys

Banned from several hacker conventions due to aforementioned energy workouts.

His energy workouts have become the focus of "Get Draped" merchandise.


Molests young boys with his energy workouts.

Performed an energy workout involving BadGer and his cock. (It's not a rumor when you walked in on it at Defcon 8 - RaT)

Considers Grifter to be "the one that got away".

Tried to convince Steve Jobs to give him an energy workout in the 70s.