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The Twilight Years of Cap'n Crunch 313

Posted by Zonk
from the keeping-it-cranky dept.
Carl Bialik from WSJ writes "Tech pioneer John Draper, a legendary, eccentric figure in Silicon Valley better known as Cap'n Crunch, has slipped to the margins while his peers became rich, the Wall Street Journal writes in a profile. Draper was a 'phone phreak' and helped develop the technology for word processing and voice-activated telephone menus; meanwhile, he eluded the mainstream by tampering with the phone system, frequenting the rave scene and shouting at anyone smoking anywhere near him. 'Once tolerated, even embraced, for his eccentricities, Mr. Draper now lives on the margins of this affluent world, still striving to carve out a role in the business mainstream,' says the WSJ. More from the article: 'Contemporaries who've gone on to riches and fame say they've tried to help Mr. Draper over the years. Mr. Wozniak says Mr. Draper's problem is that his skills lie in technology rather in making business deals or starting a company. "He didn't come from a business orientation," says Mr. Wozniak.'"
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The Twilight Years of Cap'n Crunch

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  • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by baldass_newbie (136609) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @10:53AM (#17628420) Homepage Journal
    When Woz is saying you don't have business skillz, that's something.
    Seriously, the phrase for this 'Emotional Intelligence' and it's in short supply for most geeks/nerds/etc.
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jellomizer (103300) * on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:04AM (#17628616)
      Well Woz does have business skills. He is able to keep a job, maintain organizations, work well with people. He just doesn't like the remote aspect of upper management he just wanted to be an engineer. Compared to others like "Cap'n Crunch" and many other geeks they think just because they are smart that people will want to keep them. You can be the smartest person in the world but you will not be able to keep a job if you smell like 2 week old dead fish, and people feel you will at any one time snap.
      • Well Woz does have business skills. He is able to keep a job, maintain organizations, work well with people.

        These are basic interpersonal skills, not business skills. Yes, they are very much needed in business, but they are skills that have applicability far beyond the workplace. It's a bit like saying that wearing clothes or tying your shoe are business skills.

        Woz needed Jobs (and Jobs needed Woz) because one lacked what the other provided -- Jobs had the marketing and business savvy and Woz had the m4d

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rblancarte (213492)

          These are basic interpersonal skills, not business skills.

          I think Woz was just being nice, or diplomatic. I read the blurb and then the article, the whole time thinking the same thing - this is something that a lot of people should learn from. I think you hit the nail right on the head M-GW.

          After finishing up a CS program just last year, one of the biggest things I noticed was the major lack of social skills that many students had. There were many briliant students, but some of them just terrible at

          • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

            by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @02:32PM (#17632348) Homepage Journal
            "After finishing up a CS program just last year, one of the biggest things I noticed was the major lack of social skills that many students had. There were many briliant students, but some of them just terrible at interpersonal interaction. I think the grandparent post is very right. Many brilliant computer types have this attitude about being so high and mighty they are irreplaceable...."

            I agree. I find it amazing that so many in the field have the personality of a small soap dish. That makes it tough when you almost have to 'drag' the brilliance out of a very smart person.

            I find that quite often, if you get into the IT field...if you have a good personality, out going, personable and present yourself well in business situation, it will often more than make up for some tech skill deficiencies you might have, whereas someone lacking but, a tech wizard, will often get left behind professionally and financially. In this day in age, you cannot afford to be one dimensional.

            One fine case in example, I'd just started one of my first tech jobs where the team took a huge chance on hiring me..I'd really only had experience teaching myself foxpro, and building a user interface while doing medical research while trying to get into med school. My degree is in Biochem. Anyway, they were going to use Delphi to build a windows interface to submit and manage processes on the mainframes they had. Well, I'd only been on the team maybe a week....and they had to give a presentation, to a small group of potential users....maybe about 15-20 people tops.

            These guys were all terrified it seemed of standing in front of the people and presenting the strategy and ideas we were working on. I've never had a problem getting in front of a large group of people for anything...so, noob guy volunteers. It went just fine...but,from then on...many people noticed me, and i did well at the company. I would have people ask my opinion over others in the group that were MILES ahead of me technially....hell, I'd have to ask them at times, and then give the answer later to the higher ups that asked me. So, yes...people skills will go a LONG way to save your ass and move you forward in life. You have to have skills to back up BS for sure, but, mediocre skills and excellent people skills can take you much further that skills alone.

            "Personally, I think that interpersonal skills are something that really should be worked on by the people themselves and also perhapse helped by educational facilities. Why not have CS programs teach a class(es) in interpersonal skills?"

            Unfortunately, I dunno if this is something you CAN teach. While I hesitate to say that these important interpersonal skills are something you are "born with". I would say that they are pretty well ingrained in you by the time you are a teen or maybe even earlier. I don't say you can't learn new things, but, with most people that have the skills....they are second nature and natural for them to use. I'd say it is kind of like being 'witty' and being able to come up with funny things instantly in conversation....a skill that often is a sign someone has exceptional interpersonal skills.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Darth Liberus (874275)
              Unfortunately, I dunno if this is something you CAN teach. While I hesitate to say that these important interpersonal skills are something you are "born with". I would say that they are pretty well ingrained in you by the time you are a teen or maybe even earlier. I don't say you can't learn new things, but, with most people that have the skills....they are second nature and natural for them to use. I'd say it is kind of like being 'witty' and being able to come up with funny things instantly in conversatio
      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Funny)

        by JudgeFurious (455868) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @02:08PM (#17631936)
        I didn't smell like 2 week old dead fish. I just forgot to bathe for a couple of days while I was working on something.

          Ok a month but I still smelled better than dead fish.

          The only reason they fired me was because that bitch in the clerical refused to go out with me and got that restraining order. The cowards in management were afraid of getting sued and I think one of them was having an affair with her. Once I finish my manifesto they'll all be sorry they ever fired the smartest man who ever worked there!
    • Re:Wow (Score:4, Informative)

      by cowscows (103644) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:08AM (#17628682) Journal
      Well, there are people who like to think that they're smart enough that they don't have to pay any mind to "society's rules", that their extreme brilliance is all that they need. Geeks are notorious for that, although often unfairly stereotyped to the extremes. But in generally, things like "I'm going to wear t-shirts and sandals to business meetings, and they can go ahead and fire me if they don't like it" are basically symptoms of the same thing.

      The problem is that in the end, technology is really only useful to the point that it interacts with people. While there are many who will appreciate technology for technology's sake, if you're really going to get anywhere, what you're doing has to satisfy people. And if your attitude pushes people away before they can appreciate what you're trying to do with technology, then you're just going to end up isolating yourself. As smart as you are, there are other people out there just as smart, who are also able and willing to have more normal social contact with others, and they'll get chosen over you.

      If you want to make a technology based business, It's not enough just to understand technology. You should also strive to understand people as well. You'll never figure it all out, but the ways that individuals, organizations, and societies work are important, and pretending that it isn't won't make everyone else go away.

      • by jcr (53032)
        people who like to think that they're smart enough that they don't have to pay any mind to "society's rules",

        I wouldn't say that Crunch fits that description. He's really not an in-your-face kind of guy.

        -jcr

        • by cowscows (103644)
          I don't know him, so I can't comment on him specifically. But being an obnoxious brat isn't the only way that this sort of thing can happen. Just refusing to participate in social activities can be a symptom. Not to say that if you don't go to parties and get drunk and crazy that you're some sort of misanthrope, just that it's not impossible to have a disdain for "normal" people and be fairly quiet about it.

          A example that I've seen often enough are techie type people who "hate all sports", and who believe t
        • by jjohnson (62583)

          He's really not an in-your-face kind of guy.



          No? Not when he's screaming across the restaurant "this bacon is too greasy!" or yelling at you for smoking within 100 yards of him?
      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

        by GeckoX (259575) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @12:39PM (#17630286)
        I don't agree.

        The guy that shows up wearing a t-shirt and sandals to a business meeting, and is consciously thinking 'screw em if they don't like it', is NOT the kind of geek/nerd we're talking about here.

        Your typical geek/nerd may appear a bit unkempt not because of a conscious decision, but because of any related thoughts not even entering into their mind.

        We're talking the kind of person that can sit down and code for 2 days straight, never even thinking about eating or whatever. People that live in their head.

        There's a BIG difference. Most geeks/nerds today really aren't. It's just fashionable to be seen as such, somewhat. And a lot of these people play up the part. Sad, but true.

        Unfortunately, it's usually going to be the true geeks/nerds that get fired, let go, walked over, ignored whatever because they don't fit in with the social aspects at their place of work.

        Personally, where I work, I try to be very very conscious about peoples abilities, and completely shut off everything else. I don't care if you're a nice guy or not, doesn't matter at all...unless it impacts your ability to do work or other people's ability to do their work. Stink in a meeting? Whatever, you're doing a great job and don't worry we wouldn't make you meet with our customers directly as we know you wouldn't deal with it well.

        I've fired people that I actually liked a lot. I've fired more people that I'd actually hang out with outside of work than people that I wouldn't. On a personal level, I really can't stand some of the people I work with. Bottom line is though, that has just about zero impact on how they do their jobs. It takes all kinds.
        • Your typical geek/nerd may appear a bit unkempt not because of a conscious decision, but because of any related thoughts not even entering into their mind.

          That's not being a geek; that's being out of touch with reality. They are not the same thing. There are plenty of nerds who have good social skills. I'd be careful about making broad brush strokes like you just have. What you are describing, really, is autism [wikipedia.org].

          Most geeks/nerds today really aren't. It's just fashionable to be seen as such, somewhat.

          Halleluj

          • by GeckoX (259575)
            No, rather I'm suggesting that social traits have nothing to do with ones ability.
        • Stink in a meeting?

          There's no excuse for a lack of personal hygiene. If I were his boss I'd speak to him pretty quickly about it and fire him if he didn't start bathing regularly. And what of his coworkers? Maybe YOU don't mind if he smells like old sweat and shit, but his colleagues who share cubicle-land with him might.
      • by lakeland (218447)
        My CEO wears hawaiian shirts, shorts and sandals to business meetings.

        I understand that at first it made it a bit of an uphill battle building his startup but now it is just part of the image.
        *shrug*, works for me. Besides, it means any clients I have to deal with can already deal with him.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by paganizer (566360)
        "As smart as you are, there are other people out there just as smart, who are also able and willing to have more normal social contact with others, and they'll get chosen over you."

        I know a lot of people like to tell themselves this sort of thing, but let me point out something that you really should know; not all people are created equal.
        There are people out there who are the very best at what they do. Would we have Personal Computers, if it wasn't for Woz & Jobs? A lot of people say that we would, the
      • Not Exactly (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vtcodger (957785)
        ***Well, there are people who like to think that they're smart enough that they don't have to pay any mind to "society's rules", that their extreme brilliance is all that they need. Geeks are notorious for that, although often unfairly stereotyped to the extremes. But in generally, things like "I'm going to wear t-shirts and sandals to business meetings, and they can go ahead and fire me if they don't like it" are basically symptoms of the same thing.***

        In my experience, it isn't a matter of thinking that t

  • by szembek (948327) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @10:54AM (#17628426) Homepage
    "helped develop the technology for word processing and voice-activated telephone menus". Thanks a lot buddy. YES, NO, NO, MAIN MENU, YES, ACCOUNT BALANCE!!
  • by toby (759) * on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @10:54AM (#17628432) Homepage Journal
    For a historical overview, detailed reminiscences of phreaking and interviews with Draper, Wozniak and Mitnick, see The Secret History of Hacking [google.com] (50 minutes). In particular it details how the phreaking story hit national headlines, how Draper and Wozniak met, prank calling the Vatican, and the blind hacker with perfect pitch who can control phone switches around the world by whistling.
  • Kinda Sad. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jellomizer (103300) * on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @10:58AM (#17628514)
    It is kinda sad to see a pioneer live the rest of his life in near poverity. But it also shows that in order to make it in the world you do need some ballance in your life. In order for society to respect you you must respect society. He bairly respected society and now society barly respects him.
    • Re:Kinda Sad. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Peter Cooper (660482) * on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:02AM (#17628596) Homepage Journal
      That's a nice sentiment, but it's not really true. Look at Steve Jobs. He's not known for his respect to others.

      I think I'd rewrite it to say.. in order for society to respect you, you must know how to manipulate society.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by radarsat1 (786772)
      I think its a common and sad misconception to think that people with alternative lifestyles are "disrespecting society". Usually they have alternative lifestyles because "society" doesn't satisfy them.

      To put it another way... they don't go out of their way to piss off society, it's just that society is so easily hurt, and they're not going to let that slow them down.

      (caveat: sure, some people _do_ go out of their way to piss off society. Also, of course there are limits. And there are those who understand t
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LWATCDR (28044)
      kind of sad but really his choice.
      He has had and blown more money than most of us well ever have.
      The man made trips to India for fun.
      In many ways not that different than rock stars that blow all their money. Lots of good hard working people end up with problems not of their own making. Many of John Drapers problems where of his own making. How many times did he go to jail for freaking?
      He wrote a word processing program he didn't cure smallpox or feed the poor.
      I feel bad that he made so many bad choices but
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by boyfaceddog (788041)
      Wow, that is such a load of Ameri-centric crap.

      Here are some interesting bits of trivia you might wish to ponder.
      1) Not everyone believes that the great Euopean-derived society is either correct 100% of the time or even basically ethical. These people do not care for western society's respect.
      2) Contrary to what everyone in America thinks, having money does not prove you are better than other people. Witness Ms. Hilton, President Bush, and Mr. Gates as examples of this.

      What is sad is that so many people loo
    • by GeckoX (259575)
      Is this how we measure someone's worth and success? By how one fits into 'society'?

      What is poverty? Have you ever thought about that? Is a homeless person poor because they don't have a car and a wide screen TV? What if those things wouldn't bring them any sort of happiness anyways?

      How many hugely successful people that are highly respected by society end up so unhappy that they end it all themselves?

      I'd suggest that the kind of attitude that you're presenting is very very dangerous indeed. There are as man
    • by pilgrim23 (716938)
      Columbus died in a poverty too. It is never the explorer, it is always the exploiter... his middle managers, 2 accountants, and the guys from marketing that walk off with the prize
    • by rs79 (71822)
      "It's kinda sad to see a pioneer live the rest of his life in near poverity."

      Like Ghandi?
  • How Strange (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @10:59AM (#17628534) Journal
    Mr. Wozniak says Mr. Draper's problem is that his skills lie in technology rather in making business deals or starting a company. "He didn't come from a business orientation," says Mr. Wozniak.
    That's funny, "not coming from a business orientation" is pretty desirable when I'm looking for someone to talk to. I think Mr. Draper's real problems were that he picked the wrong friends when he was starting out & incurred legal fees he couldn't afford. If one of my friends was ever living in a vehicle, I'd be certain to lend a hand. Especially if I was some Apple hot shot. I guess my definition of "friend" differs from Mr. Wozniak's. A bright man under utilized in our society. And the article points out all of his problems. Although he made mistakes, I doubt his situation is entirely his fault. Another misunderstood engineer.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jcr (53032)
      I think Mr. Draper's real problems were that he picked the wrong friends when he was starting out & incurred legal fees he couldn't afford.

      Well, getting busted didn't help, either. After he called up Tricky Dick, the FBI didn't waste much time tracking him down.

      -jcr

    • A bright man under utilized in our society. And the article points out all of his problems. Although he made mistakes, I doubt his situation is entirely his fault. Another misunderstood engineer.

      With certain exceptions (e.g., things you can't control, like some forms of cancer, mental illness, etc), someone's problems are ALWAYS their own fault. For example, if your boss screws you, it's YOUR fault for not being careful.

    • Re:How Strange (Score:4, Informative)

      by tinkerghost (944862) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:29AM (#17629028) Homepage
      Especially if I was some Apple hot shot. I guess my definition of "friend" differs from Mr. Wozniak's.
      I doubt it differs that much, from the article, The Woz has paid for his legal bills.
    • Re:How Strange (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:40AM (#17629198) Homepage Journal
      If one of my friends was ever living in a vehicle, I'd be certain to lend a hand.

      Says you. Without personally knowing the people involved, you can't possibly say that. My best friend from childhood - more like a brother, really - has been homeless for well over a decade. I've gotten him three different jobs that he held for a couple weeks before not showing up one day. He's sane, inasmuch as he's acting rationally: he's not willing to invest the responsibility necessary to maintain a fixed living space. What more can I do to help him?

      Maybe Woz tried to give Cap'n a hand up a few too many times and got tired of it. Again, without being personally involved in the relationship, you can't know.

      • by dave420 (699308)
        If the help you're giving them doesn't seem to be doing the trick, give them different help! If they've got a place to live, a job, and they still don't turn up for work, get them some counselling. Get them the help they need to keep going to the job. Friends don't just shrug their shoulders, go "meh", and walk away. They don't "get tired". They keep helping. What you described is not a friend.
        • Re:How Strange (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @01:16PM (#17630986) Homepage Journal

          See, you just proved my point. I've been doing everything I can to help him for over 15 years, but you write it off as shrugging my shoulders and walking away. Well, the truth is a lot more complex than that, and without knowing me and my friend, you have no means to evaluate your hypothesis.

          • by dave420 (699308)

            "Maybe Woz tried to give Cap'n a hand up a few too many times and got tired of it"

            That's not being a friend. If the help you're giving someone isn't working, try something new. There is always help for someone. I don't need to know you OR your friend - who I'm not even talking about - this is not deducing motives, but actions. Someone stopping helping their friend FOR ANY REASON is not being as good a friend as they can. Simple. It doesn't matter if one friend is Hitler and the other Mother Theresa -

            • "There is always help for someone."

              Don't be so quick to judge.

              Some people CAN NOT be helped.

              Some people WILL NOT be helped.

              In between "100% integrated into society mundane person" and "Bat shit crazy, living in a cardboard box under an overpass person" there is a vast continuum. Some people are not "sane" (for want of a better word) enough to make good decisions, interact successfully with other people, function in society or look after themselves. These same people are not "insane" enough to be a d
              • Hear, hear. Although I believe it's P.C. to call it "bipolar disorder" these days. Just walked away from a good friend after three years of struggling to help him as his mania caused him to lose jobs, steal things, cheat on and beat on his girlfriend, break and steal my things, physically assault people, etc.

                He's bipolar and won't take his meds. I'm done. It's a shame, but his illness makes him an asshole and he refuses to address it. I'm DONE. Especially after he tried to ruin my marriage -- dave420,
            • by ToastyKen (10169)
              Have you ever actually had a friend in such situations? Other people can only help so much. There's a point where any additional help only perpetuates certain patterns of behavior, and being a "good friend" only ends up dragging you down with them, in which case you then have two screwed up people instead of one. Yes, it's important to be a good friend and help out when the situation is truly desperate, but eventually it's the responsibility of the person in trouble to figure out how to sustainably impro
            • Re:How Strange (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Darby (84953) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @03:48PM (#17633776)
              That's not being a friend. If the help you're giving someone isn't working, try something new. There is always help for someone. I don't need to know you OR your friend - who I'm not even talking about - this is not deducing motives, but actions. Someone stopping helping their friend FOR ANY REASON is not being as good a friend as they can. Simple. It doesn't matter if one friend is Hitler and the other Mother Theresa - motives, feelings, pizza preference, whatever - it doesn't come into it :)

              One of my brothers is probably in worse shape than Capn Crunch, since he doesn't even have any "skillz" at all.
              He had every opportunity in the world to make something out of his life and he has consistently refused to do so.

              There isn't one of us that he hasn't lived with and robbed.
              He's been sent to rehab several times and prison several more.

              This is all over a period of more than 20 years.

              We have all tried many different things to help from simply providing money, food and a place to stay, to helping get him jobs, to paying for education, tutoring and the like.

              So, while it's nice to believe that people can always be saved from themselves, I don't believe it.

              Given 20 years of Meth addiction, his brain is well and truly fried. He, for the most part, can't even string together words into meaningful sentences.

              If I were to invite him into my house, then I know full well that he would steal shit *whether he needed money or not*.
              If I let him live there, it would only be a matter of time until I came home and found my wife beaten to a bloody pulp because *that's the sort of shit he does*. And goes to prison for. Repeatedly. With no concern for the consequences, or the fact that it's his own family he's destroying.

              So, there is no way in hell his friends and family are going to be able to pull him out of this since he has no real interest in pulling himself out.

              At some point, in some situations, your best course is to just let them make their own way for better or worse.

              So, while I find your sentiment admirable, I also find it rather naive.

        • You can't help people that *don't want* to be helped.
        • by cayenne8 (626475)
          "If the help you're giving them doesn't seem to be doing the trick, give them different help! If they've got a place to live, a job, and they still don't turn up for work, get them some counselling. Get them the help they need to keep going to the job. Friends don't just shrug their shoulders, go "meh"..."

          I dunno. You cannot do things FOR people. At some point, you really do have to wash your hands of the problem. I think in many cases, this is the best thing to do...let the person hit rock bottom, and ma

  • So? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Das Auge (597142)
    Being intelligent doesn't mean that you'll be rich. Becoming rich takes a certain amount of business acumen or just plain luck.

    He obviously didn't make smart business decisions and chose to go to a rave instead of a business meeting and now he's paying (or not) for it.

    This is no way means that I don't think that he did some great things or wasn't an interesting person. It just seems like the WSJ is trying to go for the easy, tear-jerker, story.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rob the Bold (788862)

      Being intelligent doesn't mean that you'll be rich. Becoming rich takes a certain amount of business acumen or just plain luck.

      Ah, good ol' Ecclesiates 9:11.

      This is no way means that I don't think that he did some great things or wasn't an interesting person. It just seems like the WSJ is trying to go for the easy, tear-jerker, story.

      I guess in the thinking of the WSJ, a skilled and intelligent guy failing to become rich is a tear-jerker. Sure, money does offer a certain degree of freedom, but too much

  • by jfoust2 (43840) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:10AM (#17628698) Homepage
    Back in the middle 80s, when I was writing for computer magazines, I was amazed that a young pup writer like me could get an interview with someone as famous as Mr. Crunch. I remember reading the Esquire blue-box article when I was a teen.

    I met him at a trade show. When I asked for some time to sit down for the interview, he insisted we go back to his hotel and conduct the interview in the gym. I balked, eventually only getting a few quotes and a picture. It took me a while before I figured out what he really wanted. Apparently Mr. Crunch thought I was cute.
    • by Viol8 (599362)
      Well if he's gay and people knew it that probably wouldn't have helped him in the 1970s corporate world much either I imagine.
    • by CrazyTalk (662055)
      I call fake. Mod parent down as troll. PLEASE.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by YankeeInExile (577704)

        For what it's worth, I don't think his interest was overtly sexual -- but it was definitely ... eccentric.

    • by YankeeInExile (577704) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:24AM (#17628948) Homepage Journal

      Hacker 1: Did you ever work out with Crunch?
      Hacker 2: Once ...

      There were a lot of "oncers" running around the bay area in that era. The best thing about meeting crunch wasn't meeting crunch -- it was all the hangers on that you met. Steve S. The guys from Berkeley who did the FatMac hack. Edjik. Perry F. John Perry. The list could go on for pages...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by qwijibo (101731)
        He's definitely into young boys. When I met him, it was pretty obvious that he was a big pervert.

        Even worse, he seemed like a total fake. He could take credit for things he picked up from other people, but didn't seem to be able to do himself the kinds of things he talked about. The thing that struck me as odd is how he didn't get how I was bouncing between machines at Netcom without using a password since they deleted any .rhosts files they found. I would think the mythical Crunch would realize that a
    • by redwoodtree (136298) * on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @12:07PM (#17629668)
      Actually, not a troll at all. The same thing happened to me.

      I was hanging with friends in the Bay Area one night when one of them said "Hey, there's captain crunch". He was just hanging out. So I started talking to him and he offered to show me some things and talk to me more. Being 19 and so excited to meet one of the all-time heroes of phreaking I followed.

      Next thing I knew Mr Crunch was on my back (literally) and basically getting himself off. He's an odd, odd, odd odd odd bird. I shook him off and took off as quickly as I could.
  • interesting (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nomadic (141991)
    I think the whole situation mirrors, at a larger scale, a common situation that occurred in the 90s. While computer careers opened up big time, just because you had technical skills you didn't necessarily end up in a well-paying job; through poor social skills, lousy geographical location, or just plain bad luck you might have missed the gravy train. I'm sure there are people here who are on one side or the other of a technical income divide; one guy might be making close to minimum wage at radio shack, w
  • Moo (Score:5, Funny)

    by Chacham (981) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:19AM (#17628850) Homepage Journal
    Woz is amazing.

    A genius at electronics, he could not start a business for his life. So, he created an alter-ego, by taking everything that he isn't, and putting it into one new character. He names his new character as any techy would, by its function, and Mr. Jobs came to be. For a first name, he simply chose his own.

    Think about it:

    1) Can you imagine how two people so opposite can get together so well?
    2) Have you ever seen the two of them together?

    Apparently, he tried pawning off his DUPED (dual-user personality electronic disorder) to the cap'n, but it a bit of a crunch Drapier refused. Now, Woz is taking his sweet revenge with public humiliation.

  • Dirty. Few teeth. Lives "off the grid" "at the edges of society". Phreaker. Raver.

    Sounds a lot like Blank Reg [wikipedia.org].
  • by plopez (54068) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:34AM (#17629102) Journal
    That's probably what he wants. Just because he doesn't have a bazillion dollars doesn't mean he is a failure or pathetic. Just because he doesn't want to, or have the cut throat personality required to, make it in business does n't mean he is worthless. It sounds like Baker *did* have that cut-throat personality, does that make him better because he made more money.

    I mean this is the WSJ, where the only thing that matters is money and once you get enough of it you are a demi-god who can do no wrong. Why do we worship the rich like this? It makes no sense.

    I love this part:
    "He set about preparing the meal -- obtained free from a Whole Foods worker who leaves outdated products near a dumpster at a prearranged time."

    Now there's a guy who is smart, why pay for food when you can get it for free *and* keep perfectly good food from spoiling? Anyone paying retail for food is a sucker.

    Nice qoute from Woz:
    "But, actually, John is one of the happiest guys I know, no matter what his situation seems."

    So just leave him alone.

    • There are several facts that counter what you've said, and they come directly from the article:

      1) He was ambitious enough to start his own company, twice

      2) He's been in legal trouble and required other people's help

      3) He's had multiple employment opportunities that went nowhere

      So, maybe he does want to be left alone now, but back then (just several years ago) he sure didn't.
    • Sure, if he's happy, good for him! If I had to choose between money and happiness, I'd take happiness hands down, every time.

      That said, this is also a lesson for all of us who could not find happiness subsisting on the charity of others (eating food left by a dumpster, cooked in a van). It's a story of unmet potential. A brilliant man whose accomplishments are so much less than they could have been. I don't care how much money he does or doesn't have. I'm saddened to think what a difference he could ha
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by GeckoX (259575)
      Every big city has the proverbial bag person that everyone knows of, has seen, even talked to whatever. Very often these people are WAY more interesting than they are given credit for. There is a guy in London (Canada) that is a tenured university prof. He has published books. Taking the time to actually talk to him will reveal a couple of things. He's brilliant. He's eccentric. He's not like you and me. He's one of the happiest people you'd ever meet.

      Some people are very different, and race has nothing to
    • by dave420 (699308)

      Just to play the devil's advocate - nothing personal :)

      "why pay for food when you can get it for free *and* keep perfectly good food from spoiling?"

      Because maybe someone who can't afford food needs it? Otherwise, by your logic, soup kitchens should be full of rich people.

      Back to the topic - I say leave the fella alone. Make sure he's cool, got what he wants, and let him be. Respect him - don't make him into a sideshow.
  • by xmas2003 (739875) * on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @11:55AM (#17629448) Homepage
    Yet another nifty page-1 article by the WSJ. When this first came out, I thought it would make a great Slashdot submission, but they had it behind the pay/subscriber-only wall, so I didn't submit it.

    Interesting that a few days later, they have made it readable by the masses (under the "Today's Free Features" section) and Carl from the WSJ then submitted to Slashdot. My guess is the URL may not work tomorrow, but this is smart marketing on the WSJ's part to give people a taste of their excellent.
  • Pff. Newbies. (Score:3, Informative)

    by FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @12:00PM (#17629540) Homepage
    Draper is Captain Crunch. Cap'n Crunch is the guy on the cereal box.
    • by Panaqqa (927615) *
      Actually, Cap'n Crunch (the cereal) once upon a time included a toy whistle in each box of cereal. Draper was the guy who figured out that it blew a 2600 Hz tone - the exact frequency to get your phone phreaking session started. Now why exactly he decided to blow a toy whistle into a phone microphone I don't know, but that's where he got his name. Are you so very sure it's Captain Crunch now?
  • Mr. Wozniak says Mr. Draper's problem is that his skills lie in technology rather in making business deals or starting a company. "He didn't come from a business orientation," says Mr. Wozniak.'"

    His problem is that he's socially pathological.
  • I'm guessing for most S.V. people their biggest hit has been the value of house they have purchased decades ago.
    I was in S.V. during the start of the P.C. era. There were dozens of companies competing for market share including some started in Stanford dorm rooms (Cromemco). Only a handful made it big. Ditto for every business fad up to online video today. How many YouTube runner ups and clones are there out there? How many will make a killing and be around in 20 years? How many will make their foun
  • by peter303 (12292) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @01:09PM (#17630860)
    I recall it was at the Mac users club at Stanford. He seemed to always be working on some project, but usually worked alone on them. Had a bit of grooming issue too, but thats not unusual in Silicon Valley.
  • Crunchman story (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @01:50PM (#17631610)
    I met Draper once, went 'raving' with him (he was a big club raver then), and talked him into signing my homebrew lineman's handset with 'CaptnCrunch', even though he didn't want to go by that nick anymore. So I got his autograph on something worthwhile. Back then I was patching into roadside payphones to get a dialtone to get on the internet, with a torx screwdriver I picked up free from a computer tradeshow. Figured it was time to quit when I opened one box up and black widow spider had made a little happy home in there. The highpoint of my phreaking career was what I called the 'plaid box', or adding a cordless basestation and answering machine inline with a payphone, so you could drive within range of it and make and make free phone calls from inside your car. This worked with those third party carrier payphones. I was a hacker, not a phreaker, so my only interest really was in getting a data connection on the road.

    Watched him give an interview in a park to an Indie film crew, and kind of snickered to myself listening to his exploits as a hacker, because I myself at the time was sucessfully hacking ATM machines. There I was standing watching the interview, 10x a hacker, with the film crew oblivious to me but obviously wrapped up in the by gone legend of the Crunch persona.

    Beware his attempts to engage you in excercise or 'straighten out your back'. My guess is his short time in prison he went gay. You've got to be predisposed for that however. If you don't want to go gay in prison you don't, nobody forces you to. I did two years in prison (and subsequently won my appeal) and had two consecutive flaming butch fags for roommates and no way in hell was I going to go gay, I hated those SOBs.

    He goes to India a lot, and is not as computer illiterate and someone here claimed. He is destitute most of the time back then it seemed to me, living off of payment for 'speaking engagements' which pretty much have run out. Most of his personal hardware are Apple laptops given to him by Woz. I gave him 3 old Pentium boxes one time. He tried selling a firewall for a stint called the 'Crunchbox' I believe, coded by a guy I believe by the name of John Chen?, who did all the programing and was a hardcore fan of NetBSD for its ability to royally lock down the OS security wise.

    Had a website http://webcrunchers.com/ [webcrunchers.com] and http://shopip.com/ [shopip.com]

    The thing is, if you are good hacker, I mean, a great hacker, you never get caught. Nobody ever even knows your name. You don't advertise. You never develop any attachment to any particular nick. I never got caught. My lovely tour of prison was a freak victim of circumstance thing, I happened to be apparently in the wrong place at the time when something else was going down.

    The fun thing about the internet is, you can talk to these folks online. I've talked to Clifford Stoll, and Woz via emails. Never talked to RMS in real life, but almost ran into him. I don't get around much anymore and try to avoid traveling in hacker circles, avoid Defcon, etc.

  • My dad left me the paper yesterday morning to read this article. It's really quite interesting; especially how he was involved in development of so many technologies, yet he languishes in near-poverty.

    I was especially surprised to hear that he has trouble finding work now due to his involvement in phone phreaking in the 70s, and that he helped Apple develop some unreleased phone technologies in the 80s which never saw the light of day because he was involved.

    In this day and age, at least, it's surprising to
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Spent considerable time with the old Crunchman. You need to remember, he's 63 years old, but for his age, he's very young... he's recently returned from a Tibetan Yoga retreat, lost a lot of weight, and contrary to what's said, he doesn't stink..

    He's very "together" and I'm amazed at his energy and demeaner. Dispite the cruel and unusually harsh treatment from not only his hacker peers, but also from industry, and probably even the authorities. He was very happy and freegoing... His main problem he to
  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @03:54PM (#17633918) Journal
    > frequenting the rave scene and shouting at anyone smoking anywhere near him

    That's like frequenting the Playboy mansion and shouting at anyone flopping out their tits anywhere near him.

    It all comes together now as to why he's broke -- he's an idiot.

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