Early Hackers Used Whistles From Cap’n Crunch Cereal Boxes

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Phone phreaks were proto hackers who would play specific sequences to take over phone lines. Turns out the Cap’n Crunch whistle prize from the mid 60’s made the perfect tones. Great bit of history from Atlas Obscura. I remember this being an important part of the movie Hackers:

Draper heard about the whistle from other phreakers. The whistle easily played at 2600Hz, the perfect tone to, in Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak’s words, “seize a phone line.” Though many phreakers used instruments for the same purpose, the mass-produced whistle became iconic. Draper became known for using it, and gave himself the nickname “Captain Crunch.” He even built devices, called “blue boxes,” to replicate that tone and other useful ones. After a story about blue boxes was published in Esquire in 1971, the then-college student Wozniak and his friend Steve Jobs tracked Draper down to learn all they could. (Though Wozniak admired Draper, he was intimidated by his intense energy, disheveled state, and many missing teeth.) The boxes could also be used for mischief. Wozniak tried to prank-call the pope, while Draper boasted that he once got President Nixon on the horn.

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