Happy Birthday, Elk Cloner!
Though the name sounds like any one of an assortment of characters you might find at your local Pittsburgh VFW, it’s actually the name of the world’s first computer virus.
Though it certainly wasn’t the first bit of malicious code (that title belongs to Creeper, which infected the Internet’s predecessor, ARPANET, and was never released into the wild), it was the first to be discovered in the wilderness of home computing, 25 years ago this month.
It didn’t do much damage to your Apple II. After 50 reboots, it displayed the following message:
Elk Cloner: The program with a personality
It will get on all your disks
It will infiltrate your chips
Yes it’s Cloner!
It will stick to you like glue
It will modify RAM too
Send in the Cloner!
Also, it only spread through disk-to-disk contact – you had to insert a floppy into a computer already infected with it. It almost seems kind of quaint.
Oh, and what connection does this have to Pittsburgh? The author of the virus, Rich Skrenta, was a student at Mt. Lebanon High School when he created Elk Cloner. He has gone on to success in the computer industry, and even maintains a blog of his own.