Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Twilight Years of Cap'n Crunch - WSJ.com:

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Underneath a highway bisecting this Silicon Valley town, home to Google Inc. and other tech giants, John Draper crammed his bulky frame through the door of a friend's home: a battered 1978 Chevy diesel bus.

Radio parts, a wrench set, arthritis medication and a book on robotics cluttered the dashboard. A padded bench for sleeping and a greasy stove filled the back.

"What do you want for lunch?" asked Dave Bengel, a self-taught engineer.

"Salmon," responded Mr. Draper, 63, who has few teeth and wears the same clothes for days. He is better known in Silicon Valley as "Cap'n Crunch," a legendary figure who 25 years ago epitomized the freewheeling, prank-filled culture that gave birth to high tech.

"Salmon, all right!" cried Mr. Bengel. He set about preparing the meal -- obtained free from a Whole Foods worker who leaves outdated products near a dumpster at a prearranged time.

In the decades since Mr. Draper gained fame for his hacking skills as a "phone phreak" -- he once claimed to have gotten then-President Nixon on the phone -- Silicon Valley has aged and matured. Pioneers that Mr. Draper worked with, such as Apple's Steve Jobs, have gone on to become wealthy members of the business establishment.

10:38 AM