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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.
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 scene where Moss introduces his clueless boss to the internet—the physical internet—may have you binge-watching on Netflix soon.
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.
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