Cap'n Crunch, the famous phone phreak introduction
I’m really looking forward to meeting a ton of really interesting people. Many of you older folks may remember me as Cap’n Crunch, made famous from a toy whistle found in the Cap’n Crunch Cereal box. With this whistle, it was possible to inject signaling tones into long distant phone lines emulating the capability of operator switchboards. This is an internal access point at the trunk level and not the subscriber level. With this level, you have the power of an operator, able to directly connect to other “Inward” operators, listen in on phone calls (emergency interrupt trunks), and use any of the overseas gateway codes to the rest of the world. This was a big gaping hole in the network, and it took 15 years to fix it by building switching equipment to connect to the new SS7 network.
In mid 1972, due to this information getting out from a publication in the Oct 1971 issue of Esquire magazine article called “Secrets of the little blue box”, caused a lot of heads to roll in the huge empire of “Ma Bell”.
Steve Wozniak, co founder of Apple Inc, was at Steve Jobs house and saw the esquire article and read it. He found it so fascinating, and unbelievable that he thought it was fiction.
Then, a week of so later, I was interviewed on KPFA (A Berkeley public radio station), and demonstrated some of the things you can do with this Blue Box. I showed how it was possible to “Stack tandems” or hop phone calls over as may as 12 links, demonstrating the call setup and broadcasting it on KPFA.
Woz tuned into the program about halfway through, called KPFA, and left his number. KPFA staff gave me his number, and I contacted Steve.
Steve had discovered the tone frequencies were not valid, but stumbled upon the “Bell System Technical Journal” at the Stanford Library, and got the actual frequencies and decided to build his own blue box. Steve, being skilled in Digital electronics designed this complex version of his blue box (Which is sitting inside the Mt View Computer History Museum), but the box was emitting only Square wave tones, but the phone equipment was only designed for pure sine wave tones, so most calls failed to go through.
After I called Steve, he invited me to his UC Berkeley dorm, where he showed me his box, and I warned him the box should send pure tones, but it did work, after about 5 tries, and fiddling with the speaker distance to the mouthpiece. Steve asked me if he could call the Pope in Italy. I said Sure, but I doubt if his box would work. Eventually, I got through and a staff at the Vatican took the call, it was 4 am there.
Steve said “This is Henry Kissinger (the Sec of State then), and I want to talk to the pope to confess of my sins”. It turned out that Henry Kissinger was out of the country, and state said “Oops”.
Anyway, my story will soon be told in a new book I’m soon to be releasing called “Beyond the little but box”, http://beyondthelittlebluebox.com
Updates on the progress of my book can be found on my Facebook page
http://facebook.com/jdcrunchman, or they can search for “beyond the little blue box” page on Facebook to ask questions and comments.
Unfortunately, due to an accident, I’m suffering from compression fracture of my spine, and need life saving medication, but you can benefit from this because to raise money for my healing fund, I’m hosting Google Hangouts to raise the money so I can live. You’ll have an opportunity to ask me any questions about anything.
Being 72 years old, I’m getting senile, but when I was young, there was NO computers, NO internet, only Ma Ball. So I have a lot of history in my life.
I just finished writing an article on the new SS7 Switching system of the phone company, and there they go - they did it again…. left a big gaping hole in their network, just like they did when they designed their earlier system that uses “in-band” signaling. This means it was trivial to inject tones into the trunk to control it with a Capn Crunch Whistle. Now they did it again, because a decade ago, the phone company implemented a gateway between the internet and the closed SS7 network.
Please be looking for this article to show up here.
Thanks, and Happy New Years
John D, the Crunchman