Nothing can be said about John Draper, alias Captain Crunch,
a veritable "grandfather" of all hackers, without feeling a shiver of
admiration; from his pioneer exploits in introducing himself on Bell’s phone frequencies to his most famous prank to president Nixon, from the Homebrew Computer Club
experience to the development of EasyWriter, it can be said that the Captain made the history of computer science: and that’s why interviewing him has been even more exciting!
We did meet him at the MOCA2008 – an hacker camp, north-European style, organized during last august in Pescara, Italy, by Metro Olografix, historical virtual community among the most active on the Italian scene in the last decade – and here’s the result…
InfoFreeFlow (IFF): How did you get interested in telephony and phone lines, even before
started to do phreacking?
Captain Crunch (CC): Because I was in the military and I had the need to call home, just to be
in touch with friends and family; I was able to use military lines to make
calls for free, even before the Air force would grant their availability.
IFF: And how did you get interested in phreaking?
CC: It was sort of unintentional. I was approached by a person who called me
and told me he was a phone phreack. It just sparked my interest.
IFF: How did you contribute to the development of the Homebrew Computer Club
and what did it mean to you?
CC: I wasn’t really the particularly involved person in that, I was just one of
the members. I was, at the time, just one of many other people who did made
profound changes in the industry. Steve Wozniak, Bob Marsch, Gordon French,
Lee Felsenstein, all these people were the Homebrew Computer Club founders:
they had a very strong interest in building home computers, which I did
IFF: Which is the feat you are most proud of?
CC: I wrote the first word processor program for the Apple ][ (Easy Writer); eventually I began to work up on it to put up one idea.
IFF: That is?
CC: I needed a word processor program to document a FORTH system that I was
developing; I had hundreds of documentation and I needed a way to make nice
type print; by then there was no word processor program for the Apple, so I
IFF: What can you tell us about the Crunch Box, the Intrusion Prevention
System based on OpenBSD on which you did work some time ago?
CC: It’s in the past. I used to have the Crunch Box along with other people,
which were not really doing what I was telling them to do.
It became a risk for me to be involved with that, expecially when they were
reselling it at the military, so I abandoned it.
IFF: What do you think about the state of Network Neutrality in the USA?
CC: I think the network should remain neutral, definetly. The network should
just be open and free to use: and if you going to pay for the bandwidth,
you keep the bandwidth.
IFF: And about the new role of the phone companies, which claim control
internet traffic as contents’ distributors?
CC: Phone companies should be just carriers and not have control over the
information. Information should be handled by someone else and this is not
the phone companies.
IFF: Lastly, which are your other interests beside telephony and computer
CC: I have a lot of interests…one of my main interests is right now…killing
my body! ‘cause it is really screwed up.. So I engage in yoga training and
healing as well as, simply, in reading and relaxing. My recreational
activities also included going to raves; now I can’t do that anymore,
though I’m hoping someday I may go again! I’ve been having some problems
physically, medically and haven’t be able to do that, so I’m spending lot
of time dealing with those.
IFF: Thank you for all, Captain!
CC: Take care!