In 1982, 15 year old student Richard Skrenta wrote the first known computer virus in the wild. Also known as the Apple II virus, Elk Cloner spread by infecting Apple II systems via infected floppy disks. Although not causing any deliberate harm, it was extremely annoying. On every 50th boot, the virus would display on-screen:
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!
It infected floppy disks that were inserted into the victim machine, spreading from disk to disk although it wouldn’t harm the working of the computer itself. Skrenta was apparently a known prankster, and created a way to attack his friend’s disks without having physical access to them. It was a highly contagious virus, infecting the machines of several people he knew. Part of it’s success is attributed to the lack of user awareness, and the fact that at the time there were no such things as anti virus programs. Although it could be removed, it was a difficult manual process.
Even Skrenta’s math teacher was infected with the virus. Wonder if he got a passing grade? He is currently CEO of Topix.net, an online news aggregator.