On StoriesofApple.net there’s an exclusive interview with John T. Draper, better known as Captain Crunch, speaking about blue boxes, meeting and working with Wozniak and Jobs, the Charlie board and all of his business with Apple throughout the years. Related to this article, the latest addition to the OSNews team (who will step forward soon enough) supplied us with an interesting link to a story that shines a different light on John T. Draper.
For those that don’t know, phreaking is the art of cracking the phone system, for instance to make free long distance phone calls. During the ’50s, AT&T started using automatic switchboards which used tone dialing, where tones are used to control the system. One of those tones is the 2600 Hz tone, which can be seen as an “idle tone”, indicating to the switch that the long distance line in question was idle. Stopping the 2600 Hz tone would make the switch listen for dialled digits. This tone was used to break into the phone system. For instance, placing a tone at 2600Hz on a busy line would tell the switchboard the phone call was over; stopping the tone again would make the switch listen for digits. Phreakers then applied the correct tones for those digits. This happens to be where Captain Crunch got his nickname from: the box of cereal contained a whistle as a gift during the ’60s which could produce the 2600 Hz tone.
In any case, this snippet from Recollection, a magazine dedicated to the early days of the C64 scene, puts Captain Crunch in a slightly less heroic light.
I would like to enlighten you guys with the true story about Cap’n Crunch. The often told story, that he was like the first blueboxer, is entirely not true. Before Cap’n Crunch, there were a lot of other local SF area guys who found a way to use the force of CCITT5, most notably some blind kids who used their organ to generate the necessary tones for both seizing the trunk and dialing. Eventually, Crunch visited them at home and they willingly shared their knowledge, looking for someone to build electronic devices that could to the job instead of a quite immobile organ (or keyboard). Crunch received all the information he wanted and thanks to his stupid way to give away information to just every fucker around, the myth about Crunch started. Nobody really wondered that he got busted, because he was just as much of a talker like Kimble was a decade or two later. Most notably giving all the information to Jobs and Woznyak who then illegally sold hardware blueboxes to students all around the corner, leading to the first phreaking related busts in history. So please people, do not kneel in front of Crunch, just the way you would never kneel in front of Kimble. It’s not worth it. Hail the blind kids who had so much creativity that they found something incredible back in those days and blame them for meeting the wrong person.
I’m completely new to the whole phreaking business, so I might have some of the details wrong. In any case, I’d love to hear more stories from our readers about this, as I’m sure other children like me would love to know more about this.