John Draper

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John Draper
20151004 Captain Crunch at Maker Faire Berlin IMG 1282 by sebaso.jpg
Draper at Maker Faire Berlin in 2015
Born John Thomas Draper
(1943-03-11) March 11, 1943 (age 74)
Residence Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Other names Captain Crunch, Crunch, Crunchman
Occupation Computer programmer, former phone phreak
Website &

John Thomas Draper (born March 11, 1943), also known as Captain Crunch, Crunch or Crunchman (after the Cap'n Crunch breakfast cereal mascot), is an American computer programmer and former phone phreak. He is a widely-known figure within the computer programming world and the hacker and security community and generally lived a nomadic lifestyle.[1] Since 2013 he has lived in Las Vegas, Nevada.[2] In 2017 allegations that Draper subjected at least eight people to unwanted sexual attention while attending computer security conferences surfaced in media reports. Draper denied some of the allegations, did not answer others, and said many encounters described were not of a sexual nature, but examples of an unusual physical fitness routine he's followed for decades.[3]

Early Life[edit]

Draper is the son of a United States Air Force engineer. As a child, he built a home radio station from discarded military components.[4] He was frequently bullied in school and briefly received psychological treatment.[5]

After taking college courses, Draper enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1964. While stationed in Alaska, he helped his fellow service members make free phone calls home by devising access to a local telephone switchboard. After Alaska, he was stationed at Charleston Air Force Station in Maine. In 1967, he created WKOS [W-"chaos"], a pirate station in nearby Dover-Foxcroft, but had to shut it down when a legally-licensed radio station, WDME, objected.[citation needed]

Draper was honorably discharged from the Air Force as an airman first class[5] in 1968. He moved to Silicon Valley and briefly worked for National Semiconductor as an engineering technician and at Hugle International where he worked on an early designs for a cordless telephone. He also enrolled at De Anza College, which he attended on a part-time basis through 1972.[6]

During this period, he also worked as an engineer and disc jockey for KKUP in Cupertino, California[7] and adopted the countercultural ethos of the time, including wearing long hair and smoking marijuana.[8]


While testing a pirate radio transmitter he had built, Draper broadcast a telephone number to listeners seeking feedback to gauge the station's reception. A call from Denny Teresi[9] resulted in a meeting that led Draper into the world of so-called phone phreaks, a term applied to people who study and experiment with telephone networks, and who sometimes use that knowledge to make free calls. Teresi several other phone phreaks were blind. Learning of Draper's knowledge of electronic design, they asked him to build a multifrequency tone generator, known informally as a blue box, a device for emitting audio tones used to control the phone network. The group had previously used an organ and cassette recordings of tones to make free calls. Among the phone phreaks, one blind boy who had taken the moniker of Joybubbles had perfect pitch and was able to identify frequencies precisely.[10]

A Cap'n Crunch bosun whistle

The phreakers informed Draper 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.[11] 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.

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. The publication 2600: The Hacker Quarterly is named after this audio frequency.

According to one often-repeated anecdote, Draper picked up a public phone, then proceeded to "phreak" his call through phone systems around the world, terminating the call at a second public phone right next to the first. In another, Draper claimed that he and a friend placed a prank call to the White House during the Richard Nixon administration. After giving an operator President Nixon's secret code name of "Olympus", the story goes that they asked to speak to the president about a national emergency. When a voice sounding like Nixon's came to the line they said there was a toilet paper shortage in Los Angeles. The anecdote has never been proven.[12]

In 1971, the journalist Ron Rosenbaum, wrote about phone phreaking for Esquire. The article relied heavily on interviews with Draper, and conferred upon him a sort of celebrity status in the among people interested in counterculture. When first contacted by Rosenbaum about the story, Draper was ambivalent about being interviewed, but also in the same breath explained his prevailing ethos:[13]

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) as republished by Slate

After the article was published, Draper was in 1972 arrested and charged with toll fraud. He was sentenced to five years' probation. However, it also caught the attention of University of California, Berkeley engineering student and future Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who located Draper while working as an engineer at KKUP, a public radio station in Cupertino, California.[14] After arranging to meet Wozniak in his dorm room Draper and Wozniak compared techniques on blue boxes. Also present at the meeting was Wozniak's friend Steve Jobs. Jobs and Wozniak went on to set up small business selling phone-phreaking tools. [12] Draper was a member of the Homebrew Computer Club.[11]

In 1977, Draper worked for Apple as an independent contractor,[7] where applying his knowledge of the telephone networks and electronics, he created the "Charlie Board", a telephone interface board for the Apple II personal computer "that could immediately identify phone signals and lines — such as ones that made free calls — something commercially made modems could not accomplish for at least another decade. While Apple never sold a product based on the Charlie Board, some of its techniques would later be used in tone-activated calling menus, voicemail and other services."[12] Draper claims to have written the BASIC cross-assembler used by Wozniak in the development of Apple I and Apple II.[15]

Software developer[edit]

In 1976 and 1978, Draper served two prison sentences for phone fraud. During this period, two court-appointed psychiatrists examined Draper. One concluded he had an 'underdeveloped sense of people' and was 'psychotic' while the second found nothing wrong with him." Draper wrote EasyWriter, the first word processor for the Apple II, in 1979 while on a work-release program during a third prison sentence.[12]

Draper later ported EasyWriter to the IBM PC, and it was selected by IBM as the machine's official word processor, beating competing bids from Microsoft. Draper formed a software company called Capn' Software, but it booked less than $1 million in revenue over six years. The company's distributor Bill Baker hired other programmers to create a follow-up program, Easywriter II, without Draper's knowledge. Draper sued and the case was later settled out-of-court.[12]

His last job with a major corporation was at Autodesk in the late 1980s. He spent most of the 1990s involved in the burgeoning rave culture,[16] and supported his itinerant lifestyle by developing websites and writing code in Australia and India, among other locales.[12] A Sydney rave website[17] captured purported reports from Draper about some of the rave events he attended in that city.

John Draper in Canberra, Australia in 1995

From 1999 to 2004, Draper was the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) for ShopIP,[18] a computer security company whose featured OpenBSD-based firewall, The CrunchBox GE, was backed by Steve Wozniak and featured in an article in The Register.[19] Being the first company to feature hackers as security consultants and the first to use OpenBSD, Draper and the company were also featured in an article in The New York Times.[20]

From 2005 to 2010, Draper was the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) for media delivery company En2go.[21]

Health and lifestyle[edit]

Draper is well known in the hacker community for his itinerant and nomadic lifestyle.[1] A 2007 Wall Street Journal profile described his one-room apartment in Mountain View, California in a state of squalor, littered with trash and miscellaneous electronics and computers.[4] He has since moved to Las Vegas, Nevada.[2] He's also known for a life-long dislike of tobacco smoke and an apparent inattention to personal hygiene.[22][23]

In 2014, Draper claimed to suffer from a series of health issues, including degenerative spine disease and C. diff colitics. Supporters launched a crowdfunding campaign to help him pay medical bills.[24]

Allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior[edit]

Beginning in 2017 a number of stories emerged alleging inappropriate contact of a sexual nature by Draper in incidents going as far back as the 1970's. John's noted approach of fans at security and Hacker conferences features in common to many of the claims, at which he is known to extend personal invitations to attendees to return with him to his hotel room and participate in a form of calisthenics exercises resembling Reiki. Included in these claims are some who were teenagers at the time in instances where some say Draper touched them inappropriately when they accompanied him for the exercises. In particular Ethan Smith, now an editor for The Wall Street Journal, and James Erickson detailed encounters with Draper for Buzzfeed. Organizers at several conferences including DEF CON and ToorCon acknowledged they were aware of rumors concerning Draper's alleged inappropriate behavior. A number told BuzzFeed they had banned Draper from attending their events in the future. [25]

Allegations from two more individuals against Draper surfaced in The Parallax, a computer security news website. The incidents described were similar in nature to those reported by Buzzfeed. The site confirmed that Draper has been banned by organizers of at least four hacking and security-related conferences due to this practice. Additionally it emerged that in 2008 Draper required Phil Lapsley to give him a "half-naked piggyback ride" before agreeing to an interview for his book 'Exploding the Phone, A History of Phone Phreaking,' which he evidently complied with in order to obtain the interview.[26]

Additional allegations came to light in a second Buzzfeed story on Dec. 8, 2017. In it a man named Craig Ellenwood claims to have been sexually assaulted and briefly held against his will by in Draper's apartment after the two met at rave event in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood in the summer of 1991. Ellenwood claims that Draper complained of a pain in his back and asked him to stand behind in order to help adjust it, only to be forced to the floor by Draper. Ellenwood further alleges that Draper attempted to pull down his pants. When Ellenwood tried to escape, Draper blocked the door, and briefly refused to let him leave.[27]

In a interview with The Daily Dot following the Buzzfeed story, Draper denied the allegations describing the encounters as a type 'energy workout,' which employ techniques of Applied Kinesiology. Regarded as a form of alternative medicine the benefits of which are widely disputed, Draper claims to have learnt the methods from a team of medical professionals in California in 1990. In Draper's experience the practices proved so successful addressing various ailments that he wished to promote them to anyone and everyone who will listen regarding their helpfulness, as well as to spread knowledge of them and their practice. Draper conceded that in some instances he may have experienced an erection during some of the exercises which included massages of the legs and riding on the backs of other people piggyback-style while denying any explicitly sexual conduct or intent.[28]

The Daily Dot also reported on a claim by Matt Blaze, now professor of Computer Security at the University of Pennsylvania that Draper subjected him to a prolonged stalking campaign during the mid-1970's when Blaze was a teenager, where Draper would have been in his 30's. Blaze claimed that after declining an invitation to "work out," Draper tapped his family's home phone line and later impersonated a relative attempting to take him out of school. As noted in documentaries such as 'Hackers - The History Of Hacking,' in the principally adolescent and adolescent-minded hacker culture from which John hails phone pranks similar in nature to what Blaze described have long been considered de rigueur by the hacker community and not especially reflective of nefarious intent.[29] Draper declined to answer questions about Blaze's allegations. The Daily Dot quoted a spokesperson working for Draper's PR firm, Redwire, as being "stunned" by the allegations and willing to investigate them.

In popular culture[edit]

References to Draper and fictional characters based in part upon him have appeared in some books and motion pictures.

In the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, a character named John Draper is the key to unlocking a mystery within the story.[30]

In the 1992 motion picture Sneakers the character Erwin "Whistler" Emory portrayed by David Strathairn is said to have been partially based on Draper.[31][32]

Draper is specifically mentioned as "Captain Crunch" in dialogue in Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, in which a hacker mentions that "Cap'n Crunch broke into the national phone system with a plastic whistle."[33]

Draper was portrayed by the actor Wayne Pére in the 1999 made-for-TV film Pirates of Silicon Valley.[34]


  1. ^ a b "John Draper Interviewed Early 1995". Retrieved July 17, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Twitter / jdcrunchman: @_defcon_ I have room for 2". 2013-05-15. Retrieved July 17, 2014. 
  3. ^ "A Hacker Hero Has Been Banned From Cyber Conferences After Decades Of Inappropriate Behavior". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2017-11-21. 
  4. ^ a b Rhoads, Chris (2007-01-13). "The Twilight Years of Cap'n Crunch". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2016-05-28. 
  5. ^ a b Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws Who … - Phil Lapsley – Google Books. 1972-05-04. Retrieved July 17, 2014. 
  6. ^ "John Draper". LinkedIn. Retrieved 2014-07-17. 
  7. ^ a b "Stories of Apple – Captain Crunch on Apple – An interview with John Draper". Retrieved 2014-07-17. 
  8. ^ Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws Who … - Phil Lapsley – Google Books. Retrieved 2014-07-17. 
  9. ^ TLC Hackers: Computer Outlaws (AVI), Phreak Vids 
  10. ^ "A Call from Joybubbles - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved November 20, 2017. 
  11. ^ a b 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.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Chris Rhoads (January 13, 2007). "The Twilight Years of Cap'n Crunch". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 29, 2014. 
  13. ^ Ron Rosenbaum as reproduced at (October 1971). "Esquire Magazine, October 1971: Secrets of the Little Blue Box" (PDF). Esquire. Retrieved 2017-11-25. 
  14. ^ The Woz..., The Real Captain Crunch: Stories, Web Crunchers.
  15. ^ Captain Crunch on Apple — An interview with John Draper, Stories of Apple, 2008-12-04 
  16. ^ "WICKED Weekend". Retrieved November 20, 2017. 
  17. ^ "Sydney Rave History". Sydney Rave History. 
  18. ^ John Leyden (2001-02-07). "Captain Crunch sets up security firm". 
  19. ^ Andrew Orlowski (2002-02-27). "Woz blesses Captain Crunch's new box". 
  20. ^ John Markoff (2001-01-29). "The Odyssey Of a Hacker: From Outlaw To Consultant". The New York Times. 
  21. ^ Marty Graham (2008-01-15). "Wozniak Backs Captain Crunch in Net Video Startup". Wired. 
  22. ^ Rhoads, Chris (January 13, 2007). "The Twilight Years of Cap'n Crunch". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 16, 2010. 
  23. ^ Lapsley, Phil (2013). Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws who Hacked Ma Bell. Grove Press. ISBN 978-0-8021-2061-8. 
  24. ^ "Fans raise cash to help phone phreaker John Draper, aka Cap'n Crunch". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2016-05-28. 
  25. ^ "A Hacker Hero Has Been Banned From Cyber Conferences After Decades Of Inappropriate Behavior". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2017-11-17. 
  26. ^ Seth Rosenblatt. "New sexual-assault allegations against 'phone phreaker' John Draper". The Parallax. Retrieved 2017-11-22. 
  27. ^ Kevin Collier. "More Men Accuse Proto-Hacker "Cap'n Crunch" Of Inappropriate Sexual Contact". Buzzfeed. Retrieved 2017-12-08. 
  28. ^ David Gilmour. "Hacking pioneer John Draper responds to sexual assault allegations". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 2017-11-21. 
  29. ^ Various. "Hackers - The History Of Hacking Documentary". YouTube. Retrieved 2017-12-07. 
  30. ^ "Ready Player One". 
  31. ^ Sneakers on IMDb
  32. ^ "Sneakers (Film) – TV Tropes". TV Tropes. 
  33. ^ "Captain Crunch – SOLDIERX.COM". 
  34. ^ "Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999) – Full Credits –". Turner Classic Movies.