I found this fascinating article on the art and history of computer viruses, it draws an interesting parallel to the graffiti sub culture that dominated the 1980’s.

It was often hard to ignore that you had a virus in those days. The New Zealand virus declaring “Your PC is now Stoned!”, Italian virus bouncing a ping-pong ball across your screen, or the Maltese Casino virus playing Russian Roulette with your file allocation table.

Sure, all of these viruses were irritating – they spread without your consent, and ate up system resources – but only some of them like Casino were deliberately destructive. In many ways, a lot of the malware could fairly be compared to electronic graffiti.

The Green Caterpillar, for instance, which crawled across your screen, eating up letters and pooping them out a shade of brown. Or the Plane companion file virus, which featured a stick man parachuting out of a bi-plane…

Even as malware turned nastier, and more destructive, there was still some art to be seen. Virus-writing gangs like Phalcon/SKISM (Smart Kids into Sick Methods) used colourful ANSI-style art to declare that they had infected your computer…

But then things started to change. Malware got commercial. The reasons for writing a virus, or – increasingly – a Trojan horse, became more about stealing data, or recruiting a PC into a botnet, rather than displaying a silly message or gory graphics.

Read the full article here.