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April 1, 2016

By Lisa Dare

The first “wild” virus

What were you doing in high school? A clever 15-year-old in Pittsburgh spent his freshman year inventing the first computer virus to replicate itself outside a lab. 

A known prankster, Rich Skrenta liked to program floppy discs to taunt his friends or shut down their computers. But most of his friends grew tired of the tricks and stopped accepting his copies of video games. So Skrenta got creative, inventing a virus that would hide until the 50th time the game was activated.

Skrenta’s virus placed code in the host computer and replicated itself in other floppy discs created, ensuring it was passed from computer to computer.

Once activated, the virus (dubbed Elk Cloner) showed this verse:

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!

Skrenta’s devious—but harmless—scheme revealed his genius for computers, if not poetry. The high-schooler grew up to become a superstar in the tech world (and a responsible adult). He worked in cybersecurity, co-founded major startups Blekko and Topix and currently works on IBM’s Watson project.

Epic (but fictional) IT prank

If you haven’t seen the British sitcom The IT Crowd, this hilarious scene where Moss introduces his clueless boss to the Internet (the actual, physical Internet) may have you binge-watching on Netflix soon.

Of course, Netflix wants to make sure you binge responsibly … make sure to scroll down for the hilarious PSAs, Netflix’s 2015 April Fool’s joke.


Have some time on your hands and looking to play your own IT prank? Reddit, naturally, provides some techie inspiration. You’ll appreciate the ingenuity even if you don’t decide to implement these ideas.

MIT’s best prank

MIT’s students have a long history of epic shenanigans, but the giant, playable Tetris game—the result of five years of planning—probably takes the cake. 

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