Tag Archives: iphone

1NT: Cap’n iPhone

Who knew that you can draw a direct line from Cap’n Crunch to the development of the iPhone? From Today I Found Out:

One such prize was offered by Cap’n Crunch in the 1960s: a seemingly innocuous whistle. Styled after naval bo’sun whistles used to transmit orders on a sea vessel, the plastic instrument happened to be able to produce a tone at exactly 2600 hertz. This is important because AT&T phone systems functioned on a series of tones that indicated which line was to perform a given action. Producing the right tone at the right time gave one control over part of the system, such as the ability to make free long-distance calls.

The culture that grew around learning to manipulate this infrastructure became known as “phreaking.” One of the most important phreakers was John Draper, who was not coincidentally aliased “Captain Crunch”, thanks to the aforementioned whistle. Moving beyond whistles and instruments, Draper, along with several others, ultimately constructed what came to be known as “blue boxes”- devices capable of emitting the various tones necessary to take advantage of AT&T phone lines in various ways.

Phreaking was arguably the beginning of what would later develop into the computer hacking subculture. Among the members of this burgeoning group were two young men who were inspired by John “Cap’n Crunch” Draper, sought him out, and learned his whistling ways. Of course, these two took it a step further when one of them realized that they could monetize the concept.

Their names were, of course, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs (founders of Apple), who created their first business together making these blue boxes, which were incredibly valuable not just for prank and free calls, but also to criminals the world over thanks to the fact that the free calls could be made in such a way as to be incredibly difficult to trace.