When Was the First Computer Virus Created?

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The first computer virus was created on an Apple II computer in 1981, by a 9th grader. Richard Skrenta was that smart and mischievous 9th grader who knew a lot about computers. He first wrote code on his friends’ pirated computer games (on floppy disks, well before the unified internet) to prank them. He would alter copies of the games to self destruct after a certain number of plays.

After his friends stopped lending him games he moved on to what became the world’s first computer virus. He created a virus called Elk Cloner. He left a virus in his school’s Apple II operating system. When someone inserted a floppy disk into the infected computer, the virus would be copied onto that disk. When the person would insert that floppy disk into another computer, the new computer would become infected with Elk Cloner and could effect other clean floppy disks.

The 50th time the infected floppy disk was inserted into a computer a poem popped up indicating that Elk Cloner was infecting the disk. The time release of the program let the virus go undetected for longer periods of time, letting it spread far and wide before the user even knew it was there. “Infecting” computers with a poem is a relatively benign start for computer viruses, knowing the havoc they can wreak now.