John Draper

From 'Phone Phreaker' to Project Blue: My Impression of John Draper

Alan Burwell

When I joined the Anonabox team in Sept. 2015, I was like the majority of American Internet users: aware that my Internet traffic could, and probably was, being monitored, but not doing anything about it. I had to ask what LAN and WAN stood for, had never considered Tor as anything more than a tool for illicit activity, and generally remained ignorant to the happenings within the Internet community outside of what was pushed to me through highly mainstreamed channels. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this, but what I’ve come to learn is just all too practical in almost all aspects of life – both sides of a fence are much more diverse and immense than you’re going to understand if you just walk the fence line. So I crossed the proverbial fence when I came to Anonabox; and, then I met John Draper.

If you don’t know who John Draper is, that’s ok. Most of my ‘normal’ friends, and even those I’d expect to run into deep within the other side of the Internet, didn’t, and don’t, know who he is. Google him, or turn to Wikipedia. But, what you need to understand though, is that to these people I now found myself working with, John Draper is more than just a “phone phreaker” of an archaic age, a rebel oppressed by “The Man” or a colorful character that happened to be a friend of an Apple founder. He was an inspiration – a legend by all the right definitions. And I didn’t understand why.

I’m still not sure that I can say I fully understand the importance of John Draper, but I’m hooked – fascinated with what I don’t understand. Meeting him, he’d tell stories of prank calling the Pope, or past presidents while in office. He spoke about government surveillance and other topics I used to dismiss as purely fear mongering, or perhaps that the messenger was someone who just read Orwell a little to literally, but he did so with just enough sincerity and inner authenticity that when listening to John he’d make me hesitate when I fell back into my old Internet habits. It’s not that I’ve come to subscribe to this way of thinking, or even unequivocally accept John’s stories, but the way he tells his stories keeps me coming back for more.

I equate myself to a young child infatuated by his grandfather. It’s not necessarily relevant if the stories themselves are true, it’s the realization that somewhere embedded in the diction you don’t quite comprehend and the syntax that is all but foreign, there is something to take hold of, dissect, examine and perhaps learn from that keeps me enthralled. We’re all ultimately responsible for formulating our opinions, and I’m not going to sit here and tell you John Draper will ever change your mind about anything, but if you’re given the opportunity to listen, just for a while, do so, even if just for that one extra grain of salt you season your ethos with.

Perhaps I’m misguided, perhaps I’ve been duped, but John’s life has become a tale I just can’t seem to get enough of. He, in his own way, has inspired me to continue to go beyond just learning what LAN and WAN mean, or realizing that Internet privacy isn’t just for those partaking in illicit activity. Having the pleasure to interact with John is just one more reason I’m all the more thankful for the opportunity to work with the growing Anonabox team. I’m especially proud of Project Blue, our just-launched Indiegogo campaign. And if you’re looking for just a bit more, I encourage you to check us out there, and maybe one day you’ll find yourself reading the autobiography of Captain Crunch.

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