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The Birth of the Computer Virus
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The Birth of the Computer Virus

Digital Life

The Birth of the Computer Virus

The Birth of the Computer Virus
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The first computer virus was created in 1982 by Rich Skrenta, who was 15 at the time and only wanted a way to share computer games with friends. He wrote a program called Elk Cloner that could be transferred from a floppy disk to a computer hard drive, where it would lay in wait for another floppy disk to be inserted.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now when we say Windows Vista blocks computer viruses, we are describing a problem that most people did not imagine until 1982.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And that's when a ninth grader named Rich Skrenta created what may have been the first computer virus. He wrote a program that would jump off a floppy disk onto the computer. The next time somebody else slid a disk into the computer, the program jumped right onboard.

INSKEEP: Mr. Skrenta did not intend to crash computer systems. He did want his friends to get copies of his pirated computer games. So 25 years ago now, he distributed the virus he called Elk Cloner.

MONTAGNE: Every so often the program would cause a poem to pop up on the computer screen. It described the first virus as, quote, "the program with the personality. And went to include this off rhyme."

INSKEEP: It will get on all your disks, it will infiltrate your chips. Words for countless later viruses to live by.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: And that's the business news on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

MONTAGNE: And I'm Renee Montagne.

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