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Computer Viruses Timeline

1983

Fred Cohen presents his first functional virus: Programmed under the Unix operating system, it implants itself in the VD command. Whenever an infected program is run, this virus inherits the program's system privileges, and in this way can transfer these privileges to each user within a short period of time.

1982

We simply design an open-ended virus program...

No problem Issue #158 of "The Uncanny X-Men" (June 1982, Marvel Comics) has mention of a "VIRUS program":

Kitty Pryde: NO PROBLEM. WE SIMPLY DESIGN AN OPEN-ENDED VIRUS PROGRAM TO ERASE ANY AND ALL REFERENCES TO THE X-MEN AND PLUG IT INTO A CENTRAL FEDERAL DATA BANK. FROM THERE, IT'LL INFECT THE ENTIRE SYSTEM IN NO TIME.

...

Carol Danvers: THERE ? THE VIRUS PROGRAM IS PRIMED AND READY TO GO. ONCE I'VE PUNCHED UP THE X-MEN DATA FILE ...

There - the virus

1981

Elk Cloner

Rich Skrenta's Elk Cloner virus infects Apple II disks. When the disk is started for the 50th time, a poem appears on the desktop:

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!

Virus 1,2,3

Joe Dellinger, a student at Texas A&M University, writes several viruses for Apple II, naming them Virus 1, Virus 2 and Virus 3.

1980

Jürgen Kraus

Selbstreproduktion bei ProgrammeJürgen Kraus, a computer science student at the University of Dortmund, writes his master's thesis on Selbstreproduktion bei Programmen, describing the construction of such phenomena. This thesis is the first study to show that certain programs can display behaviour similar to that of biological viruses.

1975

The Shockwave Rider

John Brunner's 1975 novel The Shockwave Rider describes programs known as "tapeworms" which spread through a network.

Then the answer dawned on him, and he almost laughed. Fluckner had resorted to one of the oldest tricks in the store and turned loose in the continental net a self-perpetuating tapeworm, probably headed by a denunciation group "borrowed" from a major corporation, which would shunt itself from one nexus to another every time his credit-code was punched into a keyboard. It could take days to kill a worm like that, and sometimes weeks.

1973

It's only a theoretical concept

Westworld movie posterThe phrase "computer virus" was used in the movie Westworld to describe a malicious program that emerged in the computer system.

Central malfunction.
Another one?
...
The majority of the breakdowns were minor or peripheral...
...
And there's a clear pattern here which suggests an analogy to an infectious disease process spreading from one resort area to the next. Perhaps there are superficial similarities to disease. It's only a theoretical concept


1972

David Gerrold published his book When H.A.R.L.I.E Was One.

1970

The Scarred Man

Venture, May 1970 (cover)Gregory Benford's story "The Scarred Man" published in Venture magazine. The story features a programms called "VIRUS" and "VACCINE":

"Sapiro got rich and so did Garner, only Garner never seemed to show it. He didn't buy anything new or take his wife to Luna for a vacation. Sapiro figured it was just Garner's shyness. He didn't imagine his partner was saving it all up someplace where he could run when the time came. Sapiro didn't have much time to think about it anyway because he was working eighteen hour days, with assistants to do fake work as a blind. The flunkies would go in, fiddle with the machine the way Sapiro had told them, and then Sapiro would pop in, dump the program - he called it VIRUS - and take off. The people who owned the machine never suspected anything because it looked like a complicated process; all those assistants were there for hours.


Give me a cookie!

Chris Tavares wrote the Cookie Monster program for IBM 2741/Multics. Due to some features it would be often mistakenly called a virus.

1969

Gregory Benford from Lawrence Radiation Lab wrote one of the first virus-like programs in Fortran.

1966

Theory of self-reproduction

Arthur Burks edited and published von Neumann's work about self-reproducing automata (von Neumann, J., 1966, The Theory of Self-reproducing Automata, A. Burks, ed., Univ. of Illinois Press, Urbana, IL).

1961

Darwin

V. Vyssotsky, H. McIlroy and R. Morris from Bell Labs invented Darwin game, there programs constructed by the players fight within the computer's memory.

The smallest creature capable of looping through memory and performing all three functions was about 30 [IBM] 7090 instructions long. The calling sequences were very efficient so most of the code in fact was involved with searching and reproduction - the latter being a nontrivial task since the code of an individual could not simply be copied but had to be correctly relocated. Vyssotsky invented a move-and-relocate loop of five instructions that instantly became standard.

McIlroy had a tiny creature only 15 cells long that could probe and kill, for which we had to cut down the limit of 20 protected cells lest it be immortal. Before decent search strategies evolved this simple hard-shelled ``virus''actually won a few rounds.

1957

L.S. Penrose and R. Penrose published the article about self-reproducing machines.

1949

John von Neumann (1903-1957), Hungarian computer scientist, develops the theory of self-reproducing automata.
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