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, 2015
John Thomas Draper

(1943-03-11) March 11, 1943 (age 75)
ResidenceLas Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Other namesNicknames include Captain Crunch, Crunch and Crunchman
OccupationComputer programmer, former phone phreak &

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 legendary phone phreak. He is a widely-known figure within the computer programming world and the hacker and security community and generally lives a nomadic lifestyle.[1] Following the emergence of the Me Too movement in 2017, allegations against him, some dating back decades, surfaced in public concerning inappropriate sexual behavior.[2]

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.[3] He was frequently bullied in school and briefly received psychological treatment.[4]

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 radio station in nearby Dover-Foxcroft, but shut it down after a legally-licensed radio station, WDME, objected.[citation needed]

Draper was honorably discharged from the Air Force as an airman first class in 1968.[4] He moved to Silicon Valley and briefly worked for National Semiconductor as an engineering technician and at Hugle International where he worked on early designs for a cordless telephone. He also attended De Anza College on a part-time basis through 1972.[5]

During this period, he also worked as an engineer and disc jockey for KKUP in Cupertino, California[6] and adopted the countercultural styles of the time by wearing long hair and smoking marijuana.[4]



A Cap'n Crunch bosun whistle

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[7] 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 and 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.[8]

Draper learned that a toy whistle packaged in boxes of Cap'n Crunch cereal emitted a tone at precisely 2600 hertz—the same frequency that AT&T long lines used to indicate that a trunk line was available for routing a new call.[9] The tone disconnected one end of the trunk while the still-connected side entered an operator mode. The vulnerability they had exploited was limited to call-routing switches that relied on in-band signaling. After 1980 and the introduction of Signalling System No. 7 most U.S. phone lines relied almost exclusively on out-of-band signaling. This change rendered the toy whistles and blue boxes useless for phreaking purposes. The whistles are considered collectible souvenirs of a bygone era, and the magazine 2600: The Hacker Quarterly is named after the audio frequency.[citation needed]

Profile by Esquire Magazine[edit]

In 1971, journalist Ron Rosenbaum wrote about phone phreaking for Esquire.[10] The article relied heavily on interviews with Draper and conferred upon him a sort of celebrity status among people interested in the 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:

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

The notoriety from the article led to Draper's arrest in 1972 on charges of toll fraud, for which 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 the radio station KKUP.[11] Wozniak and Draper met to compare techniques for building blue boxes. Also present was Wozniak's friend Steve Jobs. Wozniak and Jobs later set up a small business selling blue boxes.[3]

Hardware and software developer[edit]

Apple Computer[edit]

In 1977, Draper worked for Apple as an independent contractor,[6] and was assigned by Wozniak to develop a device that could connect the Apple II computer to phone lines. Wozniak said he thought computers could act like an answering machine, and modems were not yet widely available. Draper designed an interface device dubbed the "Charlie Board," which was designed to dial toll-free telephone numbers used by many corporations, and to emit touch-tones that would grant access to the WATS lines in use by those companies. In theory, this would allow unlimited and free long-distance phone calls. "It was an incredible board. But no one at Apple liked Crunch. Only me. They wouldn't let his device become a product," Wozniak said of the episode.[12] Some of its techniques would later be used in tone-activated calling menus, voicemail and other services."[3]


In 1976 and 1978, Draper served two prison sentences for phone fraud. While on a work-release program during a third period of incarceration in 1979, Draper wrote EasyWriter, the first word processor for the Apple II.[3] 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. Distributor Bill Baker also 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.[3]

John Draper in Canberra, Australia, 1995

Autodesk and other ventures[edit]

Draper joined Autodesk in 1986, designing video driver software in a role offered directly by co-founder John Walker. In 1987, Draper was charged in a scheme to forge tickets for the Bay Area Rapid Transit system.[13] He pled guilty to lesser misdemeanor charges in 1988 and entered a diversion program. While facing prosecution, he remained on the Autodesk payroll but did no work for the company.[14] Autodesk fired Draper in 1989.

From 1999 to 2004, Draper was the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) for ShopIP,[15] a computer security firm which designed The Crunchbox GE, a firewall device running OpenBSD. Despite endorsements from Wozniak, and publicity from media profiles, the product failed to achieve commercial success.[16][17]

In 2007, Draper was named Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at En2go, a software company that developed media delivery tools. The company had previously been named Medusa Style Corp. It is unclear when Draper's involvement in the company ceased; however, filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission document the resignations of several of its officers (including Wozniak) during the summer of 2009. En2Go never achieved commercial success.[18][19][20]

Allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior[edit]

In 2017, organizers of at least four hacking and security-related conferences (including Def Con, HOPE and ToorCon) said they had banned Draper from attending following allegations against him concerning unwanted sexual attention toward other attendees. The allegations were reported in two stories by BuzzFeed News.[2][21]

Further allegations against Draper emerged in reporting by The Parallax. In the story, University of Pennsylvania computer science professor Matt Blaze asserted that Draper subjected him to a stalking campaign in the 1970s when he was a teenager and Draper would have been in his thirties. Additionally, Phil Lapsley alleged that Draper consented to an interview in exchange for a partially clothed piggyback ride.[22]

Draper denied some of the allegations in an interview with The Daily Dot and didn't answer others. He denied any explicit sexual intent and instead described the encounters as an "energy workout" employing techniques of applied kinesiology, a discredited form of alternative medicine of which he claims to be an advocate. Draper conceded that in some instances he may have experienced an erection during some of the encounters which allegedly included massages of the leg and arm muscles as well as squats and pushups while carrying Draper's bodyweight.[23]

In popular culture[edit]

In Chapter 23 of the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Draper's Cap'n Crunch pseudonym, the breakfast cereal of the same name, and a whistle are clues to unlocking one of the keys in the Easter Egg hunt.[24]

In scenes depicting his interactions with Wozniak and Jobs, Draper was portrayed by the actor Wayne Pére in the 1999 made-for-TV film Pirates of Silicon Valley.[25]


  1. ^ Draper, John (1995). "John Draper, Interviewed Early 1995". (Interview). Interviewed by Tom Barbalet.
  2. ^ a b "A Hacker Hero Has Been Banned From Cyber Conferences After Decades Of Inappropriate Behavior". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  3. ^ a b c d e Chris Rhoads (2007-01-13). "The Twilight Years of Cap'n Crunch". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2017-12-18.
  4. ^ a b c Phil Lapsley (2014). Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws Who Hacked Ma Bell. Grove Press. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
  5. ^ "John Draper". LinkedIn. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  6. ^ a b Draper, John (August 2008). "Captain Crunch on Apple – An interview with John Draper". (Interview). Interviewed by Nicola D'Agostino. Pescara, Italy. Retrieved 2017-12-19.
  7. ^ TLC Hackers: Computer Outlaws (AVI), Phreak Vids
  8. ^ "A Call from Joybubbles - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved November 20, 2017.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Ron Rosenbaum as reproduced at (October 1971). "Esquire Magazine, October 1971: Secrets of the Little Blue Box" (PDF). Esquire. Retrieved 2017-11-25.
  11. ^ The Woz..., The Real Captain Crunch: Stories, Web Crunchers.
  12. ^ Wozniak, Steve (October 1, 2004). Steve Wozniak at Gnomdex 4.0, Part 2 (Speech). Gnomedex 4.0. South Lake Tahoe, Nevada: Chris Pirillo. Archived from the original on July 29, 2013. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
  13. ^ ""John Draper, dubbed 'Capt. Crunch' for using toy whistles..."". United Press International. 1987-02-25. Retrieved 2017-12-18.
  14. ^ Draper, John (May 2006). "Digibarn Radio: John Draper at Autodesk". DigiBarn Radio (Interview). Interviewed by Tom Barbalet. DigiBarn Computer Museum.
  15. ^ John Leyden (2001-02-07). "Captain Crunch sets up security firm".
  16. ^ Andrew Orlowski (2002-02-27). "Woz blesses Captain Crunch's new box".
  17. ^ John Markoff (2001-01-29). "The Odyssey Of a Hacker: From Outlaw To Consultant". The New York Times.
  18. ^ Marty Graham (2008-01-15). "Wozniak Backs Captain Crunch in Net Video Startup". Wired.
  19. ^ Medusa Style 8K filing July 23, 2007 (Report). U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. 2007-07-23. Retrieved 2017-12-14.
  20. ^ En2Go Corporation 8K filing July 06, 2009 (Report). U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. 2006-07-06. Retrieved 2017-12-14.
  21. ^ Kevin Collier. "More Men Accuse Proto-Hacker "Cap'n Crunch" Of Inappropriate Sexual Contact". Buzzfeed. Retrieved 2018-05-11.
  22. ^ Seth Rosenblatt. "New sexual-assault allegations against 'phone phreaker' John Draper". The Parallax. Retrieved 2018-05-11.
  23. ^ David Gilmour. "Hacking pioneer John Draper responds to sexual assault allegations". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 2018-05-11.
  24. ^ "Ready Player One".
  25. ^ "Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999) – Full Credits –". Turner Classic Movies.

External links[edit] small review of John's book.