It will get on all your disks, It will infiltrate your chips, Yes it's Cloner!
September 1, 2007 10:59 AM   Subscribe

The Computer Virus Turns 25. "I guess if you had to pick between being known for this and not being known for anything, I'd rather be known for this. But it's an odd placeholder for (all that) I've done." In 1982, ninth-grade student Rich Skrenta decided to play a prank on his friends. He wrote the Elk Cloner virus that infected Apple II machines. It is thought to be the first computer virus to be unleashed "in the wild." Related: A History Of Viruses.
posted by amyms (10 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I just read this article and came here to see if I was fast or old. Old, as it turns out. I like how when asked where his restraint was he answered "I was in the ninth grade."
posted by maxwelton at 11:18 AM on September 1, 2007

...and Dick Van Dyke has all of them.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:23 AM on September 1, 2007

Years later, he would continue to hear stories of other victims, including a sailor during the first Gulf War nearly a decade later (Why that sailor was still using an Apple II, Skrenta does not know).

He was probably using it as armor.
posted by brundlefly at 11:28 AM on September 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

they point to a chain e-mail message that counseled people to delete a particular file from their computer to keep it secure.

This one is totally true. I've heard that if you are running Linux or a Mac you can protect yourself by going to a command line and typing

'sudo rm -rf /'

It will solve all your problems.

It won't. Don't actually type this, it would be bad.
posted by quin at 12:46 PM on September 1, 2007

Oh, pshaw! Bill Gates' BASIC was the first (micro)computer virus. (OK, OK, Paul Allen helped.)

Since networking wasn't invented yet, his virus relied on sneaker-net propagation.

If you want to repeat the experiment, just don't spill water/coffee/beer on the paper tape.

posted by Twang at 1:55 PM on September 1, 2007

Something wonderful has happened. Your computer is alive...
posted by Artw at 2:32 PM on September 1, 2007

Twang - Did I come to Slashdot by mistake?
posted by Artw at 2:33 PM on September 1, 2007

Artw - Sorry: rough-translation of point: viruses are in the crotch of the beholder.
posted by Twang at 2:55 PM on September 1, 2007

There was (what I guess must have been) a variant of Elk Cloner going around the high school I went to. Someone had hex-edited their OS so the line on the CATALOG that normally said "DISK VOLUME 254" now said "LEE'S DISC". The reason I think it must have been Elk Cloner was that it used the same mechanism to spread and kept a flag in the VTOC to track which disks were already infected and which were not. I wrote a couple little programs to write a fresh DOS to a disk (to remove an infection) and to immunize it by setting the VTOC flags. My guess is that some guy named Lee had an Elk Cloner infection and didn't know it, and used DOS Boss or some other DOS patch utility to change the CATALOG header, and this patched copy of DOS started getting replicated.

I never saw the poem, but that was probably because the LEE'S DISK line made the infection obvious before fifty boots.
posted by kindall at 9:33 AM on September 2, 2007

I'll never forget when computer viruses were first catapulted into the national consciousness.

I believe that it was 1991 when the Michelangelo virus first made the rounds on MS-DOS computers. The idea was that it would go off on Michelangelo's birthday, and destroy everything on your hard drive.

The grandmother of one of my friends saw some sort of report about it on the news. She immediately went out and bought a copy of Norton Antivirus. Mind you, she didn't actually have a computer. She thought that the Michelangelo virus was something that you caught from a computer.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:44 PM on September 2, 2007

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