I’m the person who showed Steve Jobs the blue box, I am Cap’n Crunch. Ask Me Anything!
My name is John Draper, you may also know me as Cap’n’Crunch. I’m ready for all your questions!
Here's my proof: https://twitter.com/jdcrunchman/status/516269921005604864
Here’s a nice story about me:
The esquire article had come out, and came to the attention of Woz, who contacted me through a trusted friend, and he wanted me to show him how to use the blue box. His box was digital, but rock solid frequencies. I told him it would never work, but on some phones, the carbon mikes in the phone smoothed the waves so it would barely work, perhaps one time in 10. He wanted me to show him how to call the pope. After many tries, we got the Vatican, it being 4:30 in the morning in Rome, he told them he was Henry Kissinger, then the sec of State, and wanted to confess.
I actually got busted because a careless friend who knew my phone number got busted for using the Woz box. My conditions for giving out my number, was that they had to memorize it, no problem for blind people. One such person Richard Ceasar violated my trust, which was during the time the federal government was raiding some of the phone phreaks they could catch, but could never find me, because there was no reference to me. A big Grand jury investigation resulted from the Esquire article. Woz's box set off all kinds of alarms in the 4A switch was how they busted Richard.
I had met Steve jobs many years before he started Apple. I was closer to Woz then jobs because Woz was an engineer, as I was. He actually got me an employee discount to the HP35 a post fix calculator I used in colleges when he was working for HP. I was the envy of my class at De Anza College in Cupertino where I was taking engineering courses.
This was after I showed Woz and jobs the blue box. Jobs stated there would be no Apple computer without the blue box, and this is true, because the initial money Woz needed came from selling them, which went into laying out and producing the printed circuit for the apple one.
Right after Woz developed the Apple one, I had to serve my time at Lompoc Federal prison. Lompoc was a minimum security facility located near Vandenberg Air Force Base. There were no fences or walls. But very clearly marked signs that said "out of limits". Before going in, I arranged a system for making free phone calls. That had to be arranged before actually getting to Lompoc. They only allowed collect calls, and no 800-number calls, and there wasn't even a dial on the phone. All I had to do was to call to a certain number that would "except" the call.
I had phone freaking classes in jail. They were disguised as electronic classes, right under the noses of the jailers. We had very little supervision from the jail guards. I had modified an FM radio that would tune into the guards frequencies, so I can tell when they were coming.
By the time I got out of Lompoc, Steve had just finished designing the Apple II. It was a convention in Los Angeles where Steve was demonstrating the Apple II for the first time. Steve invited me to join him at Apple. This was a time when you weren't really assigned a job, but you could pretty much work on what you wanted to work on, as long as it promoted and enhanced the sale of the main product. Woz suggested that I build a telephone interface to the Apple II. This was an era where smoking was permitted in the workplace. They set up an annex building near their main office where Steve, myself, Randy Wigginton, and a few others working on the Apple peripherals. I threw Mike Scott out of my office for smoking, he was CEO of Apple then.
The telephone interface board was called the Charlie board. It could send and receive any tones, or tone pairs. It also had software controls for controlling the hook switch, and other functions regarding controlling the telephone. Tones were generated in Software using a 256 byte sin table and tone tables defining the frequencies.
Steve Jobs decided not to market the board, because it could be used for "illegal things" because of it's high flexibility, but the main reason, was because it was illegal to connect directly to the telephone line. Company provided a "interface device" that would allow one to connect directly to the telephone. Rental of the device was $250 a month, and was unfeasible to require customers to use this. Expensive device for the phone board, so it was never marketed. After I delivered the phone board to Woz, left a note on his desk with a cassette tape with the software, and asked him to try out. I wrote a simple interface program which would allow you to enter in a phone number and dial it. As a prank, Steve modified the program, to call Steve Job's home phone number over and over again and let it run all night. I go into the office, and Steve really laid it on the thick and heavy. He then lit up a big fat cigar and puffed it in my face as revenge. I got so sick, I couldn't work for the rest of the day.
I went on to write EasyWriter, the WordPress program, because I needed a program to write documentation to FORtH, a language I was writing with the grace of the Forth Interest group and I as designated to write it for the Apple II. I was urged to market the word processor program. we couldn't copy the disks fast enough to keep up with the sales, and I was still in jail, at a Work Furlough program where they let me attend the Faire. I wrote all of it while in in jail, they would let me go to an office during the day under very close supervision, and before going back to jail I would print a fresh copy of the source code (in FORTH) and study and modify the code at night. It was an ideal (but unorthodox) programming situation. I would go back and type in the modifications, run it through this cool debugger I wrote. Then after testing, I found very few bugs, and started writing the next session, and repeat until it was finished. I did it in 3 months of my 4 month stay at Alameda County Work furlough facility.
The word processor was very popular for the Apple II and made it's appearance at the 4th West coast computer faire. It made number two on the Soft Talk magazine hit parade. IBM started sneaking around, trying to locate software vendors to write a word processor for the IBM PC. They contacted Microsoft, and they contacted us. We beat out Bill Gates, and got out word processing program functioning much earlier than Microsoft, so IBM bundled EasyWriter with every IBM PC sold. There were some shady dealings with my publisher, which resulted in a lawsuit, and a major loss of my royalties.
I went off to do different things, living off the royalties of EasyWriter Until IBM stopped publishing it. Recently, I learned I have a degenerative spine disease which was the main reason for my health issues, I had one surgery in 2009 for my lower back, another one in 2010 for me neck, and this most recent surgery took 9 hours where the doctors put 4 large screws in my spine.
Insurance company covered most of the expense, but learned a lot of items I need for recovery are not covered and are fairly expensive.
Through some contacts I know, a QikFunder has been started up. https://www.qikfunder.com/crowdfund/help-john-draper-captain-crunch
Plus BBC picked it up. http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-29381279
I've already reached my goal, and during DefCon this year, a large "get well" card was written up and signed by the contestants of the Scavenger hunt and was presented to me in the hospital, and pictures are on my facebook time line.
EDIT: I had a great time answering your questions! All of these questions were very good ones, and I answered each and every question thanks to some help from my friend. I hope to run another AMA sometime in the near future to answer any update questions. Don't forget to visit my website www.webcrunchers.com for updates and always visit my Facebook every day because I always have cool things up there!