The story of Cap’n Crunch — an aging wunderkid

WSJ: The Twilight Years of Cap’n CrunchSilicon Valley legend John Draper made his name with Brains and pranks, before slipping to the margins. This looks at a legendary programmer, phone phreaker who developed software such as ez-writer and developing the technology that is now our modern telephone menus. But the world of technology changed and his eccentric personality was no longer tolerated. Now at 63, he lives hand to mouth, though he’s a legend in technology circles. He got his nickname when he found a whistles given away in the cereal boxes perfectly mimicked a telephone code.

Mr. Draper calls aging veterans like himself part of an “off-the-grid” community. Steve Inness, 47, helped develop touch-screen cellphone technology and does programming work for startups. In recent years, he’s lived on the floors and couches of employers; he was last seen hitchhiking in the desert outside Las Vegas. Roy Kaylor, 68, built one of the first electric cars in the early 1970s and contributed to a government-supported effort to develop the technology. He lives in a trailer without electricity in the Santa Cruz mountains. Mr. Draper’s recent lunch host, Mr. Bengel, 61, designed an electrohydraulic machine tool and says he has worked for several Silicon Valley companies.

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